Updated: January 20, 2022 10:02:25 am
With the arrest of the Samajwadi Party candidate for Kairana, Nahid Hasan, a day after he filed his nomination papers, the mantle of a long-running political feud here has fallen on women members of two families.
Standing in for Nahid, a two-time Kairana MLA, is his sister Iqra Hasan, a 27-year-old law graduate from Europe, who says she is ready to take up any responsibility, including as a replacement for her brother. In the other corner is Mriganka Singh, the eldest of four daughters of late BJP leader and three-term Kairana MLA Hukum Singh.
In Kairana’s main market, a crowd is gathered outside the Hasan house, including party workers and locals, having a heated discussion on the 34-year-old Nahid’s arrest under the Gangster Act. On Tuesday, a court denied him bail. A murmur rises as Iqra emerges from the house to give instructions.
Calling the charges against Nahid false, she says she is not daunted at her new role. “I have been part of the family’s campaigns before… I have seen politics from a very young age… At the moment, Nahid is contesting the elections. But if there comes a point that he can’t on technical grounds, I can step in, should the party take such a decision,” she says, the younger of the two siblings, with the experience of a panchayat poll behind her.
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A well-known Muslim leader, their father Munawwar Hasan had a long political career, from the Vidhan Sabha and Parishad to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as an SP leader, with a brief BSP fling in the middle. He represented the Kairana Assembly seat thrice between 1991 and 1996, and was elected MP from Muzaffarnagar in 2004. He died in a car crash in 2009.
Munawwar’s wife Tabassum Hasan then won the Kairana parliamentary seat on a BSP ticket. In 2018, she again won the seat in a bypoll after beating Hukum Singh’s daughter Mriganka Singh on an RLD ticket, backed by the Grand Alliance of the Congress, SP and BSP — becoming the only Muslim MP from the state in the 16th Lok Sabha.
Iqra pursued history from Delhi University, and after post-graduation from Law Faculty, went on to the School of Oriental and African Studies in the UK. She returned a year ago, and hopes to pursue a PhD. Brother Nahid has a business administration degree from an Australian university.
But with politics running in the family, neither has been inclined to stay away. In his first election, Nahid beat Anil Chauhan to win the Kairana Assembly seat, after the death of Hukum Singh. Iqra campaigned for the family in the 2014 elections and then contested the 2015 panchayat polls that she lost. She claims to have participated in the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
With mother Tabassum out of the picture as she is also facing charges under the Gangster Act, Iqra is not unduly affected at being the only woman in a room full of men on this Tuesday afternoon. With dreams of “juxtaposing politics with academics” in the future, she says: “For now I am meeting people and handling other party affairs. I have delegated work to social media accounts. All of us are supporting Nahid and people have reacted positively.”
Just 6 km away, close to the Yamuna floodplains, a cavalcade of vehicles stops in front of a small house in Morod village. The crowd raises slogans of “Bua-ji”, as Mriganka steps out to receive garlands.
Once an educationist, Mriganka is now into her third attempt to wrest her father’s legacy. Hukum Singh began his political career from the Congress in 1974, when he first won the Kairana Assembly seat. He won the seat twice again, one of those times on a Janta Party (Secular) ticket. After a series of losses, he joined the BJP in 1995 and went on to represent the Kairana seat for four terms. He lost the 2009 general elections, but was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014.
In door-to-door campaigning, Mriganka says she is looking forward to “the interesting battle” with the next generation of Hasans.
The BJP has been raising the alleged exodus of Hindu families from Kairana following the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 in the campaign. Both Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union minister Amit Shah have talked of it. Mriganka calls it a “legitimate concern”, adding that the sense of “security” under Adityanath had convinced some of the families who left to come back. The Indian Express reports had found no basis for the exodus claims.
“Our agenda is development and I am confident of winning. I lost the last election by merely 20,000 votes, but now several factors are at play. This government has made sure that families feel safe. Our efforts to make this region better will continue,” Mriganka says.
A local agrees that the 60-year-old has filled her father’s shoes well. “Mriganka never turns you away if you have a problem, she always tries to find a solution.”
Interestingly, in the constituency where 60% of the 3 lakh-odd population is Muslim, the faith of Nahid and Mriganka is not a concern. In fact, the story goes, both the families were once one and the same, with one branch through marriage eventually becoming Muslim. Muslims have voted for Hukum Singh in the past and Hindus have supported Munawwar, locals say.
“The land on which the Hasan house stands was given by a Jain. Muslims participate in Hindu weddings here with as much fervour. Both Hukum and Munawwar have won from here multiple times. With the false narrative of migration, certain people are trying to vitiate the atmosphere. In this case, the people will elect a candidate who wants to keep the peace,” says Suhail Ahmad, a relative of Nahid.
2012 polls: BJP’s Hukum Singh beat BSP’s Anwar Hasan
2014 bypoll (after Hukum went to LS): Winner SP’s Nahid Hasan (nephew of Anwar)
2017 polls: SP’s Nahid beat BJP’s Mriganka Singh (Hukum Singh’s daughter)
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