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National - Elections 2004 Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Muscle and mafia links still matter in Uttar Pradesh

Despite the rhetoric, the major parties have not shied away from fielding candidates with police records, says J.P. Shukla

Despite strenuous efforts made by the Election Commission to decriminalise politics, candidates with criminal backgrounds have come to dominate most regions of Uttar Pradesh in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. This is a matter of serious concern to the security agencies responsible for maintaining law and order, making their job more difficult, especially when the candidate belongs to the ruling party.

Om Prakash Srivastava, aka Babloo Srivastava, the reputed mafia don, who was extradited from Singapore to face charges in various courts in India, is the latest to join the political bandwagon. He will be contesting the elections from Sitapur, having been nominated as a candidate by the Apna Dal. Mr. Srivastava has been granted special permission by a court in Lucknow to file his nomination papers under police custody.

He is currently lodged in the Bareilly jail and the jail superintendent has been directed to make arrangements for producing him before the returning officer in Sitapur with adequate security.

What worries the security agencies is the fact that Mr. Srivastava has been able to stay in touch with his gang members even while in jail.

The jailed don's network is so wide and powerful that he can even arrange kidnappings and murders from jail, say police sources. His confidants — sitting in Malaysia, Nepal, Dubai and Singapore besides various cities in India — are capable of pumping in large amounts of money to influence the outcome of the elections, the security agencies say.

It was only last Friday that police arrested three aides of Mr. Srivastava from a Sitapur hotel, where they had registered themselves under fake names. The three arrested men include Ranjit Bahadur Srivastava, who is wanted in a recent murder case in the town.

In Pratapgarh, Akshay Pratap Singh, a relative of the independent MLA, Raghuraj Pratap Singh, is contesting the elections as a Samajwadi Party candidate.

His rival, Shiv Pratap Mishra "Senani" of the Bahujan Samaj Party, has complained that the premises of the district jail were being used as the election office of the SP nominee. If the district jail continued to be used as an office of the Samajwadi Party, the elections cannot be fair, Mr. Mishra has said in his complaint to the Election Commission.

Akshay Pratap Singh and Raghuraj Pratap Singh were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) by the Mayawati Government. Akshay Pratap Singh has since been freed on bail. But he is still using the jail premises as his election office in company with Raguraj Pratap Singh, who continued to be lodged in the jail, the BSP candidate alleged.

Sheikh Ahmed Aziz Dyer, a TADA accused has already filed his papers to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow against the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Dyer, who is the Muslim League nominee, is facing trial before a special TADA court in Mumbai.

But while the Bahujan Samaj Party has been crying foul over the activities of the SP nominee in Pratapgarh, it too has fielded candidates with police records in the elections.

The BSP candidate from Azamgarh, Ramakant Yadav, has scores of criminal cases pending against him. His brother, Umakant Yadav, is the BSP nominee from the Machlishahr constituency. Both of them have a reputation for muscle power. Both were with the Samajwadi Party, which expelled them before the elections. They joined the BSP on the eve of the elections and were readily given tickets by the BSP leader, Mayawati.

In Balrampur constituency, the candidates of all the three major political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, have a similar history.

The BJP has fielded Braj Bhushan Sharan Singh while the SP nominee is Mohd Umar; the BSP has fielded Rizwan Zaheer. The reasoning behind their nominations appears to be that they have the muscle power to win; this more than anything else decided in their favour, say observers.

The list of candidates with a criminal background is much bigger, clear evidence that political parties care little about cleansing the system despite their rhetoric.

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