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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Punjab polls: The cop, MLA wife, and the unbreachable Malerkotla House

Originally hailing from Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, Mustafa landed in Punjab first in the line of duty. It was while he was Assistant Superintendent of Police, Patiala, that he married Razia, the daughter of Malerkotla's Kutub Din, who retired as an honorary Subedar Major from the Army.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
Updated: January 25, 2022 4:02:44 pm
Mustafa and wife Razia Sultana, contesting for the fifth time, with Navjot Singh Sidhu. (Express Photo)

As an IPS officer who has long proclaimed himself the proxy for his wife, steering her through three MLA terms and 20 years as a Congress politician, Mohammad Mustafa walked a very fine line – and often crossed it. On Sunday, he crossed another, when the just retired DGP was booked for an alleged provocative speech while campaigning for a fourth term for his wife Razia Sultana in Punjab’s Malerkotla.

Few expect the 1985-batch officer to bat more than an eyelid though. Over the years, the 60-year-old Mustafa has survived many a controversy, not the least being the dexterity with which he switched sides from being a favourite of Congress rebel Amarinder Singh to being a confidant of wannabe Navjot Singh Sidhu as fortunes changed in the party. He is currently ‘principal strategic advisor’ to Sidhu, the Punjab Congress chief.

Originally hailing from Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, Mustafa landed in Punjab first in the line of duty. It was while he was Assistant Superintendent of Police, Patiala, that he married Razia, the daughter of Malerkotla’s Kutub Din, who retired as an honorary Subedar Major from the Army.

Reportedly pushed by Mustafa, Razia was soon showing an interest in politics. In 2002, the Congress fielded her from Malerkotla, the only Muslim-dominated Assembly constituency in Punjab. After that, as Congress politics in the seat came to revolve around ‘Malerkotla House’, as the residence of Mustafa and Razia is called, the couple never looked back.

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Especially Mustafa, who was always there to take the credit for Razia’s wins as MLA, in 2002, 2007 and 2017. For the 2012 loss, Mustafa blamed the BJP and RSS and “thugs” who took “the benefit of my mistakes”. In October last year, addressing a speech in Malerkotla, he said: “In 2012, it was me who lost. Razia is the candidate, but no one says Razia has lost. People say Mustafa has lost.”

As Razia sat listening, Mustafa, who retired in February last year, told the gathering: “I was already lagging behind by 12,000 votes in the 2012 elections. However, rural areas made up 7,000 votes.” Admitting he would earlier meet voters secretly, he said: “Today, I am not bound by my service.” Mustafa then went on to claim credit for getting district status for Malerkotla.

In his words, he entered Malerkotla “politically” around two decades ago. “I have changed the thinking of Malerkotla. I told entire Punjab that Malerkotla is a town of Muslims, if Muslims do not get their rights in this town, where would we go? I announced that till the time Mustafa is alive, only a Muslim will become president of the municipality,” he said in the October 2021 speeches. He also said it was he who ensured that only a Muslim could be the chairman of the local market committee and that every political position in the seat is for a Muslim. “That’s because I talk about rights and justice,” he justified.

In the speech for which he was booked on Sunday on charges of promoting enmity between religions, after the Opposition went after him, Mustafa is accused of making similar appeals on the grounds of religion. Mustafa has denied targeting any religion.

As his wife’s political career prospered, so did Mustafa’s in the police force. He often talks about his four gallantry awards. In 2019, he was among the five officers superseded by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in picking 1987-batch IPS officer Dinkar Gupta as Punjab DGP – a snub that apparently further pushed Mustafa away from Amarinder.

Mustafa and 1986-batch IPS officer Siddharth Chattopadhyaya went to court against the appointment, which was rejected by the Supreme Court. In September, after the change of guard in the Congress government, with Charanjit Singh Channi taking over as Punjab CM, Gupta was moved out, while Chattopadhyaya became interim DGP.

Meanwhile, Mustafa and Amarinder took their row to social media, with both sides posting a series of photos featuring Amarinder’s Pakistani friend Aroosa Alam.

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