Monday, Sep 26, 2022

Jharkhand Cong MLAs arrested in Bengal: A legatee, a first-time legislator & a ‘simple tribal leader’

The names of Jamtara MLA Irfan Ansari and Kolebira legislator Naman Bixal Kongari surfaced last year too amid talk of attempts to topple the state government. The Congress has suspended them along with Khijri MLA Rajesh Kacchap.

Congress MLAs (L-R) Rajesh Kacchap, Naman Viksal and Irfan Ansari. Jharkhand Congress In-Charge Avinash Pande suspended the three MLAs from the party after huge amount of cash was found in a vehicle in which they were traveling, on Sunday. (PTI)

A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Deoghar earlier this month, the Congress’s Jamtara MLA Irfan Ansari swung hard at the BJP. He accused the party of targeting Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren with the Enforcement Directorate and claimed that people facing corruption allegations “become clean” after joining the BJP.

On Saturday, West Bengal police detained Ansari along with fellow Congress legislators Naman Bixal Kongari (Kolebira MLA) and Rajesh Kacchap (Khijri MLA) after a huge amounts of cash was found in the car the three were travelling in. The car belonged to the Jamtara MLA.

The police arrested the three legislators on Sunday even as the Congress suspended them, alleging that they were linked to attempts to destabilise the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-Congress government in the state. All India Congress Committee (AICC) member Avinash Pande, who is in charge of Jharkhand, said efforts had been on for the last two years to destabilise and weaken the government and dislodge it from power. “Attempts were made to contact the MLAs, intimidate or lure them. Some months ago, an FIR was lodged against some BJP leaders for contacting some MLAs,” he added.

Since the presidential election last week, the Congress has been wary of “Operation Lotus”, which is the name of the BJP’s alleged plan to engineer the defections of seven Opposition MLAs after the 2008 Karnataka Assembly election to consolidate its strength in the House. Following the presidential poll, Congress spokesperson Alok Dubey said that at least nine votes went to Droupadi Murmu, who was the National Democratic Alliance’s nominee, from the Congress even though the party had backed Opposition nominee Yashwant Sinha.

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There has also been resentment brewing in the Congress after ally JMM did not adhere to a supposed unwritten pact and did not allow it to send its choice of candidate to the Rajya Sabha. In addition, many Congress MLAs were said to have been dissatisfied with not being chosen for positions in various corporations and boards. At present, 35 such positions are vacant.

Ansari’s name did the rounds last year when there was an alleged attempt to topple the government. In July 2021, Bixal alleged that he had been offered Rs 1 crore by “some people” to bring down the government. Subsequently, an FIR was registered against three people.

Irfan Ansari

Ansari, 44, is the son of one-time MP Furkaan Ansari, who was also a five-time MLA in undivided Bihar. He has been involved in controversies ever since he won his first election in 2014. The MLA is also a doctor with an MBBS degree, which he received in 2000, from a Ukrainian medical college. The MLA is often seen treating people in his constituency, which is one of the state’s most backward areas.


“His politics revolves around Muslim votes, but he is one leader who does not carry any weight because of how he speaks,” claimed a Congress insider. “He is not taken seriously in political circles. However, he was generally seen in his constituency. To what extent he is involved will become clear eventually.”

Ansari is known for making controversial statements and kicking up rows. Last September, he called the Taliban “revolutionaries” for forcing the US out of Afghanistan. This March, he caused controversy when, after a Karnataka High Court order on the hijab row, he alleged that the BJP was “running the courts”.

Naman Bixal Kongari

The 47-year-old Kongari, a law graduate, has the image of a “simple tribal leader” from Simdega. He received his major break in 2018 after the Kolebria seat fell vacant following the conviction of veteran leader Anosh Ekka, who won the election in 2009 and 2014 despite being in prison, in a murder case. Ekka received a life sentence.


A Congress leader in Kolebria who was part of the team that helped Kongari win said, “The Congress put its weight in Kolebira behind Kongari. We set up war rooms in the constituency and made sure that things worked effectively and signalled the revival of Congress, which has been struggling in Jharkhand for a long time. This was the first time we saw how the Congress as an organisation was effectively involved in making a candidate win. The result was evidently clear, he won by more than 9600 votes.”

The leader said Kongari “should have known better” than getting involved in “horse-trading politics”. He added, “It feels so bad that a person who was helped so much by the party gets embroiled himself in ‘Lotus politics’.”

Rajesh Kacchap

The 41-year-old MLA from Khijri in Ranchi district rose up the party ranks from the ground level. He was a block and district-level member of the Youth Congress, and won his first election in 2019 by defeating his BJP rival by 5,000 votes.

A state Congress leader said, “He was forever indebted to some people as he got the ticket. Once we went to visit him after he won the election, he would not sit in front of us on a chair. He harboured angst against some Congress Cabinet ministers and got disillusioned. Last we spoke, he said he had lost his way but was back on track … I don’t know what suddenly happened.”

First published on: 31-07-2022 at 04:29:07 pm
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