With four Assembly seats, this district in eastern U.P., has a colourful cast of characters lined up.

With four Assembly seats, this district in eastern Uttar Pradesh, carved out of Azamgarh, and famous for its weaving, will be going to the polls during the second phase. While three of the four seats are with the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Mau Sadar seat is held by Mukhtar Ansari, who has a string of criminal cases against him, and is lodged in Agra jail.

Apart for its weaving industry with an annual turnover of about Rs. 600 crore, Mau also has a proud history of participation in the 1857 revolt against the British rulers. People in Madhuban recall the sacrifices made by revolutionaries such as Harakh Singh, Hulas Singh and Bihari Singh who were hanged by the British rulers. In 1942, during the freedom struggle, people laid siege to the police station in Madhuban and 13 died in police firing. Interestingly, Paharipur village in Madhuban has produced 14 IAS officers.

Apart from the Mau seat, the district has Madhuban, Ghosi and Muhammadabad-Gohna (SC) Assembly seats. Jailed don Mukhtar Ansari has represented Mau Sadar in the State Legislative Assembly since 1996. This time around, he has floated his own outfit, Qaumi Ekta Dal, but the constituency has seen some of its minority-dominated areas going to other seats due to delimitation. (Unwilling to take any chances, Ansari is also contesting from Ghosi which has nearly 30 per cent Muslim voters). He faces Congress’ Abu Bakar Ansari, Samajwadi Party’s Altaf Ansari and BSP’s Bhim Rajbhar. The BJP’s Arijit Singh is also contesting from Mau Sadar.

Ansari, who shot to prominence in the 90s, used his clout as a legislator to keep looms in the area running by ensuring power supply to them. Flexing his muscle, he won several government contracts and even now enjoys a “Robin Hood’” image.

In Mau, weavers’ problems, because of a lack of processing centres and training facilities, and development are the key issues. The poor roads, and the flood havoc caused the swollen Ghagra river, are other concerns. Mau’s population is about 22 lakh, with an electorate of 14,23,256, a fourth of them being Dalits. State Revenue Minister Fagu Singh Chauhan is contesting from Ghosi, while three former MLAs are battling it out from Muhammadabad-Gohna, held by the BSP’s Rajendra Kumar. In Madhuban, sitting BSP MLA Umesh Chandra Pandey is being challenged by the Samajwadi Party’s Rajendra Mishra. Given the complex social and caste equations in U.P. elections, it will be interesting to see which way the dice rolls.

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