Lucknow: The BJP suffered an embarrassing defeat in Ghazipur, a Purvanchal constituency, even as the party swept Uttar Pradesh in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The party lost the seat, represented by union minister and sitting MP Manoj Sinha, by over a lakh votes to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which had fielded the strongman Afzal Ansari.
Ansari, who was the SP-BSP-RLD alliance candidate, is the elder brother of don-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari. The younger Ansari faces over three dozen criminal charges and is currently in prison. The cases relate to kidnapping, extortion and murder, including the 2005 killing of BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai, who was believed to be close to Sinha.
Afzal Ansari told ThePrint that the BJP’s ‘development claims’ were exposed in Ghazipur.
“The hollow nature of BJP’s vikas (development) was exposed in Ghazipur… He (Manoj Sinha) might be a national leader with a ministerial post but that image did not find much traction in Ghazipur,” Ansari said.
“People have reposed their faith in me and I will work on fundamental issues such as providing basic amenities to Ghazipur. I will raise these issues from the sadak (street) to sansad (Parliament).”
The BJP disputed the claim. “Even though the results are not in our favour, we have performed well in Ghazipur too,” said BJP spokesperson Chandra Mohan. “Our overall vote share has increased but we will analyse all the factors behind our loss in all seats.”
BJP sources, however, said the reason behind the party’s defeat in Ghazipur was “social equations” or caste arithmetic in favour of the opposition gathbandan.
Ansari vs Sinha: A fifteen-year rivalry
The 2019 Lok Sabha polls is not the first time that Ansari and Sinha have engaged in a contest. The two had fought a high-pitched general election battle in 2004 when Sinha was defeated by Ansari in one of the most violent polls in UP.
The polling day itself witnessed two killings — BJP worker Guddu Grihar and Sinha’s nephew Sheshnath Rai were both shot dead.
Like his younger brother, the newly-elected Ghazipur MP too has criminal cases, five in total, against him. The trials are currently underway in the cases.
But Ansari maintained that his family had been framed in many controversies and cases. “My brother used to be a very good sportsperson but his name was dragged in many controversies and false charges were evoked against him. Our family has gone through a very difficult time,” Ansari said.
While Mukhtar Ansari’s image and criminal background has kept the Ansari name in the news, the family’s connection to the freedom movement and nation-building is lesser known, he added.
He added that their grandfather, Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, was a freedom fighter who not only headed the Indian National Congress and Muslim League but also pioneered education as one of the founders of Jamia Millia Islamia University.
Former Vice President Hamid Ansari belongs to the same family and is a distant cousin of the brothers.
Ansaris and UP politics
Between 1985 and 2002, Afzal Ansari represented Mohammadabad assembly constituency in Ghazipur for five straight terms before being elected an MP in 2004.
While this election season Ansari was fielded as an alliance candidate from the BSP, he had been expelled from the party by supremo Mayawati in 2010 over the alleged criminal cases against the Ansari brothers.
Soon after, the Ansaris formed a new political outfit, the Quami Ekta Dal (QED), which contested the 2012 assembly polls. With influence in the Purvanchal areas of Ballia, Mau, Ghazipur and Azamgarh, Mukhtar Ansari managed to get elected as an MLA from Mau.
In 2017, as a bitter family feud divided Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party (SP), QED had a crucial role to play in the saga. Then SP leader and Mulayam’s brother, Shivpal Yadav, had announced the merger of QED with SP.
As news of this reached Mulayam’s son, then UP CM Akhilesh Yadav, a cabinet minister believed to have brokered the merger was sacked. Akhilesh called a parliamentary board meeting of the SP and the merger was cancelled.
Humiliated and angered by these developments, QED had decided to contest polls alone. Soon after, the Ansaris were offered an olive branch by their former political colleague Mayawati and the QED was merged with the BSP prior to the 2017 assembly polls.
In this Lok Sabha election, however, all seems to have been forgotten between Akhilesh and the Ansaris as the former reached Ghazipur constituency to hold a joint rally with the alliance’s top leadership in support of the older brother.