History-sheeters dominate Congress’ list of electoral candidates
Contrary to Rahul Gandhi’s claims of Congress being a clean party, the current list of electoral candidates is dotted with people bearing criminal records
Virendra Nath Bhatt
Rahul Gandhi on Monday alleged that successive governments in UP in the last 22 years have cheated the people of UP and were the government of “goondas and chor” and had accused the Samajwadi Party of patronising criminals. If the SP and BSP have patronised criminals then the record of the Congress is no different, as the grand old party of India has given tickets to two candidates who are in jail, and some who are involved in criminal cases, including two history-sheeters. The party, which has an alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), has announced 357 candidates. The RLD is contesting 45 seats.
The Congress list of candidates for UP Assembly elections doesn’t only includes criminals but it has also rewarded the corrupt ministers of the BSP who have been shown the door by state chief minister Mayawati and denied ticket for the 2012 Assembly elections.
The Congress, which had adopted high moral grounds and criticised the BJP for giving tickets to the former ministers in the ruling BSP government has done the same. The former BSP ministers who joined the BJP and were given tickets include Badshah Singh (Mahoba) Daddan Mishra (Shravasti) and Avadesh Verma (Shahjahanpur). The NRHM scam tainted Babu Singh Kushwaha had also joined the BJP, but the party decided to put his membership on hold after it received flak from all quarters.
When Rahul Gandhi was addressing the media at Varanasi on Monday equating the previous governments led by the SP and BSP, to those of “goondas and chor”, the UP Congress announced that it has nominated Anees Ahmed alias Phool Babu as its candidate from Bisalpur in Pilibhit district. Varun Gandhi is the BJP MP from the Pilibhit Lok Sabha seat.
Anees Ahmed was denied ticket by the BSP for his indictment by the Lokayukta on corruption charges particularly over disbursing an amount of Rs 2 crore from the MLA Development fund to the private school run by his wife and his family members. When asked about tainted candidates, Congress spokesperson Ram Kumar Bhargav said, “The Congress is against giving tickets to persons involved in criminal activity. Action will be taken once the matter comes to the notice of the high command.”
The prominent Congress candidates with tainted records include Ajai Rai (Pindra, Varanasi) former BJP leader is a four-time MLA and a history-sheeter (one with criminal records). In 2009, he won an Assembly by-election as an independent candidate after quitting the BJP. He later joined the Congress. According to police records he has been involved in 16 criminal cases, and was booked under the Gangster Act and Goonda Act. He is a member of the gang of Brijesh Singh, who once carried a reward of Rs 5 lakh on his head and is now behind bars. Rai left the BJP after he was denied ticket from the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat in 2009 Parliamentary elections.
Rai said he was framed in four cases by the Mayawati regime, while the other cases were mostly over and he had got a clean chit. Brijesh Singh, a dreaded mafia don of Varanasi, is presently lodged in Ahmedabad jail and is contesting Assembly election as an independent candidate from Sayyedraja seat in Ghazipur district.
Utpal Kumar Rai (Madhuban, Mau), the former vice-president of the Allahabad University students’ union is contesting his second election. He had been associated with the SP and BSP earlier and joined the Congress in 2008. Police said Rai had 19 criminal cases against him, including attempt to murder, and that he had been booked under the Gangster Act and NSA. Rai said the cases were lodged during his days in the students’ union and were politically motivated.
Jitender Yadav (Sikandrabad) also switched his loyalties from the SP to the Congress. He is a history-sheeter as per the police records, involved in eight criminal cases, and had been booked under the Gangster Act. Yadav said all cases were politically motivated and lodged within 15 days in 1997 during Mayawati’s rule, and that he had got a clean chit in all.
Shailesh Kumar Singh (Jangirpur, Ghazipur district), who is in jail after leading a mob attack on a police station and setting a vehicle on fire, and the police invoked the Gangster Act and NSA against him. Singh is fighting his first election.
Kalawati Bind (Zamania, Ghazipur district), a former village pradhan, is in jail in connection with a case of lynching a policeman in January 2011. She was part of a crowd which clashed with the police over the arrest of a local youth. Several people, including Bind, were injured. The mob then beat sub-inspector T Rama Rao to death. Police said Bind and 11 others have been booked for murder. This is her first election.
Bhagwan Singh Shakya (Shekhupur, Badaun), a three-time MLA, was associated with the BSP and joined the Congress in October last year. Police said he was involved in seven criminal cases, the last of which was registered on 7 January after the police found a criminal with a reward of Rs 15,000 on his head, hiding in Shakya’s house. Shakya said the police had fabricated the story, and no other case was pending against him.
Shishupal Singh (Etah), a two-time MLA who left the SP and joined the Congress in October last year. Police said he is a history-sheeter, notorious for theft of the idols from the ancient temples. Yadav said the cases against him were politically motivated, and all except one had been decided in his favour.
Stakes ride high for steel minister on eve of poll
Union steel minister Beni Prasad Verma has much to expect from the polls in 10 UP districts tomorrow
Union steel minister Beni Prasad Verma, a native of Barabanki district and famously known as the Congress mascot for Other Backward Castes (OBCs) will face the most crucial test in his five-decade long public life, i.e. of ensuring the support of the OBCs for the Congress on his birthday 8 February when the district goes to polls. The Congress, for the first time in the electoral history of UP, is attempting social engineering formula by fielding over 100 candidates from the OBC communities. As many as 55 Assembly seats in 10 districts including Gonda, the Lok Sabha seat of Verma, will go to poll on Wednesday. Another challenge before Verma is to ensure the victory of his son Rakesh Verma, candidate from Dariyabad seat in Barabanki.
The stakes are high for Verma, since Barabanki is his home district. Moreover his son Rakesh Verma is in the fray from Dariyabad Assembly seat in the district and is locked in a four cornered contest. Verma faces anti-incumbency in his Parliament constituency. He has not bothered to visit the constituency ever since his election in May 2009. The people of Gonda are up in arms against Verma. The Congress’ move of projecting him as the OBCs mascot and giving him almost a free hand in the selection of the candidates in the districts going to polls on February 8, has triggered a rebellion among its ranks.
Both Rahul and Sonia Gandhi were eye-witnesses to the waning popularity of Verma. In November last year during the Jan Sampark Abhiyaan, Verma was hooted at in the presence of the Congress General Secretary and was forced to leave the dias. The incident was repeated recently in Gonda when he was hooted and was not allowed to speak when the Congress Supremo was addressing an election meeting.
Verma’s ongoing battle with PL Punia, the Congress MP from Barabanki, has only added to his woes. Both Verma and Punia have daggers drawn at each other over a battle of supremacy. Punia, a retired IAS officer of UP cadre, who had served as principal secretary to Mayawati for her three previous tenures as chief minister of UP in 1995, 1997 and 2003, has also served as principal secretary to Mulayam Singh Yadav when he was chief minister between 1993 and 1995.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, he contested from the Gonda seat on a Congress ticket and won by 17,000 votes— one of the thinnest margins compared to other Congress MPs in the state. However, this time around Verma has an uphill task—that of ensuring the win of his son from Dariyabad seat and couple of other Congress candidates chosen by him to prove his worth to the party. Verma had promised Rahul Gandhi that he would win back the `Kurmi’ and OBC voters.
In 2007 Assembly elections, Congress had drawn a blank in the 10 districts going to polls on 8 February. Verma who had turned a rebel, was then a SP MP from Kaiserganj Parliament seat spread in Bahrich and Barabanki districts. Verma in 2007 had floated the Samajwadi Kranti Dal, which was backed by the Congress and contested the assembly election from Ayodhya Assembly seat but failed to save even his security deposits. Verma had then fielded 100 candidates including his son Rakesh Verma from Masauli seat in Barabanki, who also lost all deposits.
Recently, the Election Commission had also ordered the filing of a case against Verma for allegedly using his steel department to woo voters in violation of the election model code. Opposition parties have alleged that Verma is diverting funds from corporate social responsibility fund for the benefit of electoral prospects of his son.
Virendra Nath Bhatt is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
Editing by Debashree Majumdar