Dr. Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui for BeyondHeadlines
The 2019 elections to the Lower House of Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha) have seen political discourse at the lowest level in history. A case in point is an ANI report dated 19th April 2019:
‘I want to assure you that if anyone points fingers towards a BJP activist, finger will not remain intact after 4 hours. No criminal of the eastern region has the guts to intimidate any BJP activist within the limits of Ghazipur. If anyone does, they will be buried in the ground.’
The above pearls of wisdom came from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poster boy and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Manoj Sinha from the Ghazipur Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh, which is going to polls on 19th May 2019. Narendra Modi was considering to make Manoj Sinha as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh before Yogi Adityanath pipped him to the post. Imagine what a chief minister Manoj Sinha would have been! The gentleman is an IITian and currently Minister for Telecommunications in the Modi government. Despite the threat of violence against his political opponents, Manoj Sinha is not banned from contesting elections because of the luxury he enjoys as the BJP candidate under the pliable Election Commission. All hell would have broken lose if the above threat to violence had come from Sinha’s main rival Afzal Ansari of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), who is the Mahagathbandhan candidate. He would have been in jail, to say the least.
Manoj Sinha’s desperation came out in the face of defeat staring at him as Afzal Ansari’s electoral arithmetic seems to be correct at the moment with the coming together of the Samajwadi Party (SP), the BSP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). Even in ‘finger cutting,’ IITian Sinha seems to employ a method and timing of ‘4 hours.’ The threat to ‘bury in the ground’ is far greater than just cutting the finger. Even the muscleman Afzal Ansari with a police record has not been able to articulate his future plan like that of Sinha. Such communication from the telecommunications minister Sinha shows India in poor light as the international media has focused on the Lok Sabha polls. Thank God, The Time magazine did not carry the disciple’s story but only that of the Guru!
Manoj Sinha made his violent plans clear at the BJP’s Kisan Panchayat Sammelan. The threat to violence report was carried by The Asian Age and The Economic Times but the pliant electronic media mostly shoved it under the carpet. No wonder, India’s agricultural growth has hit a dismal 2.6 per cent. If farmers get to hear stories of violence, how can their suicides be stopped? Manoj Sinha had won from Ghazipur in 1996, 1999 and 2014. Afzal Ansari had defeated Manoj Sinha once. He is poised to do an encore!
Afzal Ansari, brother of the jailed don Mukhtar Ansari, has had a tumultuous political career. In 2016, he tried to merge his Quomi Ekta Dal (QED) with the SP. SP leader and Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle Shivpal Yadav, a close aide of Afzal Ansari, called a press conference to announce the merger of QED into SP with the ‘approval’ of Mulayam Singh Yadav. But the then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav who wanted a ‘clean’ image for the SP set aside the merger in the Parliamentary Board. That is how the father and son duo drifted apart and Shivpal Yadav ultimately formed his own party. Much water has flowed in Gomti and Ganga since then.
There are no permanent enemies or friends in politics. Afzal joined the BSP later. BSP supremo Mayawati prevailed upon Akhilesh to make Afzal the Mahagathbandhan candidate. Akhilesh and Mayawati held a joint campaign rally for Afzal in Ghazipur. Burying the hatchet, Akhilesh Yadav sought votes for Afzal Ansari yesterday. That may have eased some concerns about the transfer of SP votes to Afzal Ansari. There are more than 8 lakh Yadav voters in Ghazipur. Some Yadav and Dalit votes will still go to the BJP. There are 21 % Dalit and more than 10 % Muslim voters. There are not many Bhumihars — the caste Manoj Sinha belongs to in Ghazipur. There are no significant numbers of voters who are awestruck by Balakot. There is churning because of polarization too. Congress has fielded Ajit Prasad Kushwaha. He is likely to damage Manoj Sinha by getting Kushwaha and Rajbhar votes. The Railway Training and Research Institute set up in Ghazipur provided few thousand jobs to locals but Sinha has been accused of favouring particular castes for the jobs. Manoj Sinha is 5.16 lakh votes short of SP and BSP which they polled together in 2014. It is most likely that Manoj Sinha will be out of a job on 23 May 2019 when the votes are counted.
The Election Commission and the local administration must ensure fair and free polls in the sensitive Ghazipur Lok Sabha constituency in the light of the threat to violence. Pre-poll violence, violence on polling day and post-poll violence or a riot must be avoided at all costs.
Afzal Ansari is set to laugh all the way to the Lok Sabha against Narendra Modi’s poster boy Manoj Sinha. Afzal Ansari could be the new Ghazi (Victor) from Ghazipur. It could be a case of Phata Poster Nikla Hero!
(Dr. Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui is a senior journalist and a political analyst).