With the beginning of government projects in Purvanchal in the eighties, the battle for supremacy between the mafia and government commenced. Within a few years, the term ‘gang war’, which originated in Italy, became the identity of Purvanchal. Since then, the mafia dons, often referred to as Bahubalis have dominated the political game of the state.
However, with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath expected to sweep the assembly elections once again, the Bahubalis of the state are sweating over their future. The Yogi administration has tamed most of them and if the trend continues, the ‘Bahubalis’ of Purvanchal, might become history after the elections. Here is the list of a few of the Bahubali’s that are staring at a bleak future:
Once touted as the ultimate Bahubali of UP, Mukhtar Ansari commanded a reign of fear in the entire state, especially Purvanchal during the late 90s and early 2000s.
Whenever the cavalcade of Mukhtar Ansari sauntered out, there were slogans of ‘Bahubali Bhaiya’. 20 to 30 SUVs passed through a single straight line. All the vehicles used to end at number 786 and no government machinery had the resolve to cross his way.
Ansari is an alleged history-sheeter with almost every section of the Indian Penal Code imposable on him because he has done it all from murder to extortion. The former BSP MLA is currently facing 52 cases in the state and elsewhere, and 15 of them are at the trial stage.
Originally a member of the Makhanu Singh gang, Ansari was quick to learn the ropes of violence, extortion, and blood money in the 70s and climbed his way to the top.
It was Ansari’s alleged hand in the murder of BJP MLA Krishna Nanda Rai in 2005 that gave him the title of ‘Bahubali’. Ansari’s gangsters on five motorcycles and a Tata Sumo allegedly surrounded Rai’s car and cut him down in a hail of gunfire.
The death of Shashikant Rai, an important witness in the case, who had identified Ansari’s shooters was also allegedly planned by the Mau MLA.
Last month, inflicted a major blow upon the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), gangster Harishankar Tiwari along with his sons joined the SP to contest the upcoming seven-phase elections. Along with Brahmin politics, Harishankar Tiwari’s name is also associated with power and crime politics.
Whenever there is talk of criminalization of power, Harishankar Tiwari’s name comes at the top of the list. Tiwari was one of the most wanted men in UP politics
Although Ghazipur and Varanasi were the centres of the mafia culture in the eighties, the genesis of it can be traced back to Gorakhpur. And the first name to emerge from there was Harishankar Tiwari.
There was a stir in the politics of UP when Harishankar Tiwari won the elections while in jail in the 1985 assembly elections. This was the first case in the whole country when a mafia man won the election by staying in jail. He set the trend which was followed by several high-profile Bahubali of the state including the aforementioned Mukhtar Ansari.
As for Azam Khan, the chronicles of the Muslim face of SP have made front-page headlines, throughout the years. From threatening the DMs of the state to deploying the state machinery to find his buffalos, Azam Khan truly epitomized everything that was wrong with SP in its heydays.
Two years ago, Azam Khan’s name was put on an online list of land mafias by the district administration in Rampur following FIRs registered against him. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath alleged that Rampur is an example of the “land-grabbing” culture under the previous SP government.
Last year, Rampur police filed the charge sheet against Khan in 11 cases of land grabbing lodged at the Ganj police station. It is alleged that homes constructed on land in the Dongarpur area were demolished on charges of encroachment.
On February 26 last year, Khan, his wife and son had surrendered before a local court of Rampur in connection with a case related to the alleged forgery of Abdullah’s birth certificate. In December last year, Fatima obtained bail and got released from jail. Khan and Abdullah are still lodged in Sitapur district jail.
Akin to Ansari, Atiq Ahmad, a mafia turned politician has been a five-time state legislator in UP, apart from also being elected to the Lok Sabha once on a Samajwadi Party ticket. Atiq Ahmad has over 195 cases pending against him, including those relating to murder, abduction, illegal mining, extortion, intimidation, and fraud.
At the peak of Samajwadi Party’s power, Atiq was a big name and he was feared by the public and the authorities alike. Coming from a modest background, not many could have envisioned themselves as becoming the topmost gangster of the state but Atiq not only became a gangster, he also became an influential politician
Atiq’s father used to run a horse cart at the Prayagraj railway station, but the son was obsessed with becoming rich quickly. At the age of 17, he was first accused of murder.
It is said that after a few years of roaming in the wilderness of the world of crime, Atiq strengthened his political alliance, so much so that New Delhi became his ally. In 1986, Veer Bahadur Singh’s government operated in UP while the Prime Minister was Rajiv Gandhi.
Atiq’s Chakia gang had become a big threat to the police itself. One day, the police after extensive surveillance managed to apprehend Atiq. However, soon came a call from Delhi. It is believed that a Congress MP living in Prayagraj got the news of Atiq’s arrest.
The news stated that MP was close to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Thus, a call came from Delhi to Lucknow and the from the call was made from Luknow to Prayagraj to release Atiq Ahmed. Police was forced to set him free under the political pressure.
The 2022 assembly elections might erase the lexicon Bahubali from the dictionary of Indian voters. And that may be the biggest achievement of the Yogi administration. Good riddance indeed.