The Samajwadi Party on Thursday announced the merger of tainted leader Mukhtar Ansari’s party Quami Ekta Dal (QED) with it, in what is described as the latest snub to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav by his uncle and party State president Shivpal Yadav.
The QED had once earlier merged with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in June but it was called off by the party’s parliamentary board within a week after the Akhilesh, considering the damage to his image, expressed displeasure over the move.
The rejection of the merger with a party led by a controversial leader like Mr. Mukhtar Ansari, who faces several criminal cases, was meant to promote Mr. Akhilesh Yadav as someone fighting the criminalisation of politics.
However, with his objections overruled again, Mr. Shivpal Yadav has scored another point over his nephew, days after he replaced 14 party candidates for the upcoming polls. Mr. Shivpal Yadav also gave a ticket to murder-accused Amanmani Tripathi, the son of Amarmani Tripathi, a former minister who is serving life imprisonment for the murder of poetess Madhumita Shukla.
Announcing the merger of the QED, Mr. Shivpal Yadav tried to quash speculations of disagreement within the party over the decision. He said the decision to get the QED merged was taken after “consultations” with both Mr. Akhilesh Yadav and SP boss Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The QED’s merger with the SP is seen as the party’s attempt to consolidate Muslim votes in parts of Purvanchal or eastern Uttar Pradesh. Though the QED has only two MLAs — brothers Sigbatullah Ansari (Mohammadabad) and Mukhtar Ansari (Mau) — it has influence in pockets of Purvanchal — Ghazipur, Mau, Ballia and Varanasi. According to party president and former MP Afzal Ansari, the QED has enough support to impact the results in at least 50 seats.
After the dramatic revocation of the merger earlier this year, Mr. Afzal Ansari had singled out an “egoistic” Akhilesh Yadav for the blame and accused him of nullifying the decision merely to appease “fundamentalist voters”. He had said it was the SP’s ploy to taint his brother Mukhtar, who is currently lodged in jail, for the branding of Akhilesh Yadav’s image.
On Thursday, when The Hindu tried to reach Mr. Afzal Ansari for his comments, but both his phones were switched off.
Merger draws flak The merger could draw fresh criticism from Opposition parties, largely over the image of Mr. Mukhtar Ansari, as they would like to remind Mr. Akhilesh Yadav of his snub to Mr. D.P. Yadav in 2012 in a similar scenario.
Often projected as a don-turned-politician, Mr. Mukhtar Ansari is perceived as a local Robin Hood by his supporters. He faces several criminal cases, including four for murder, four for attempt to murder, five cases of criminal intimidation and three of rioting. Mr. Mukhtar Ansari is a four-time MLA from Mau, winning as an independent twice, in 2002 and 2007. In 2014, he had announced he would contest against Narendra Modi from Varanasi but eventually backed out to prevent a division of secular votes, with the QED then extending support to the Congress candidate Ajay Rai.
Mr. Afzal Ansari won the Lok Sabha elections on an SP ticket in 2004 before losing to the BSP in 2009. In 2010, the brothers formed the QED.