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Can Mukhtar Ansari save Poorvanchal for Samajwadi Party?

Nikhil Kumar Verma | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

Grand alliances

  • The SP, Quami Ekta Dal merger was on the cards for quite sometime
  • Formal announcement was made by Mukhtar Ansari in Lucknow

What does this mean for Quami Ekta Dal

  • The merger gives SP tickets to Mukhtar and Afzal Ansari
  • Other Ansari family members might get tickets as well as an extension of the party deal

More in the story

  • Why has the merger happened in the first place?
  • What is Samajwadi Party\'s game plan for the upcoming elections?

It is time for political realignments in the poll-bound state of Uttar Pradesh. Mulayam Singh has recently tried to bolster his political equations by joining hands with old peers like Amar Singh and Beni Prasad Verma.

Now, the SP chief seems inclined to wipe out the stains of perceived injustice done to Muslims during his party's regime.

The Quami Ekta Dal, the political party headed by Poorvanchal's muscleman leader Mukhtar Ansari, has finally merged with the Samajwadi Party.

Also read: 2017 UP elections: Here's why Muslim voters may desert the Samajwadi Party

Mukhtar Ansari formally announced the decision in the presence of SP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav in Lucknow.

Ansari's party had already approved the decision at a meeting held in Mohammadabad town of Ansari's home district Ghazipur on Saturday. The meeting was reportedly attended by all senior functionaries of Quami Ekta Dal.

Alliances made

Both the parties were discussing the possibilities of a tie-up for quite some time. While Mukhtar Ansari wanted an alliance with the ruling party, the idea was outrightly rejected by the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

The conditions of the merger have not been declared as yet. But, the rumours suggest Quami Ekta Dal leader Sibakatullah Ansari could be inducted as a minister in the state cabinet.

Sibakatullah Ansari is Mukhtar Ansari's brother and one of the two MLAs of the party, the other being Mukhtar Ansari himself.

This was probably the reason for the postponement of the proposed expansion of state cabinet that was scheduled to take place on 18 June.

In addition, several other members of Mukhtar Ansari's family are likely to get SP tickets as part of the deal. These include siblings of the gangster-politician and Mukhtar's brother Afzal Ansari.

Several members of Mukhtar Ansari's family may get SP tickets as part of the merger

On Saturday, Afzal Ansari had stated after the party meeting that the decision is 'according to the sentiments of his party's leaders' and he would soon meet senior SP leaders to finalise the merger.

Several senior functionaries of the party have expressed their opinion that the merger was the need of the hour to counter communal forces and only the Samajwadi Party could give a befitting reply to parties with divisive agenda.

Afzal Ansari had justified the decision by comparing the unification with the grand alliance in Bihar.

"Lalu and Nitish had come together in Bihar to save the nation from communal forces. This is the demand of time in our state as well," he said.

Calculated moves

The induction of a tainted leader like Mukhtar Ansari has several political connotations. In 2012, Akhilesh Yadav had single-handedly scuttled the entry of DP Yadav into the party.

Like Ansari, Yadav is also a notorious ganglord of western UP and Akhilesh Yadav had won accolades for this principled stand.

However, much water has flown through Gomti river ever since and the chief minister has clearly given precedence to political compulsions over principles this time.

Ansari's entry also underscores the fact that Akhilesh Yadav has failed to develop a style of his own during his stint in office.

Also read: UP elections: Samajwadi Party to induct 'gangster' Mukhtar Ansari, brother Afzal Ansari into party

He is finally adhering to the same tried-and-tested political formulas of his father. The 2017 Akhilesh Yadav is more disposed towards compromises and political pragmatism than the 2012 version.

A tainted history

Mukhtar Ansari started his political career from Mayawati's party. In 1996, he was elected as an MLA from Mau constituency on a BSP ticket.

He successfully contested as an independent candidate in 2002 and 2007 assembly elections. Mukhtar Ansari again joined BSP in 2007 with his brother Afzal Ansari.

Mayawati tried to project Mukhtar Ansari as a 'Robinhood' and termed him as the 'saviour' of the downtrodden masses. He was BSP's official candidate from Varanasi during 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi defeated him with a narrow margin of 17,211 votes. Ansari secured 27.94 percent votes in this contest as against 30.52 percent votes polled in favour of Joshi.

However, both the Ansari brothers were expelled from BSP in 2010. Ansari formed Quami Ekta Dal before the 2010 state elections. His brother Afzal Ansari was the national president of the party. The Quami Ekta Dal managed to win two seats in 2012 Vidhan Sabha polls, but drew a blank in 2014 general elections.

Samajwadi Party's compulsion

The Samajwadi Party had to contend with just five seats in 2014 general elections. None of the party leaders outside Mulayam's family could save his or her seat in the face of the Modi wave.

According to political observers, the party leaders fear the same rout in the upcoming elections. This is the reason it is looking for new allies like Ajit Singh and Mukhtar Ansari.

Inducting tainted leaders like Ansari to the SP fray might reflect badly on Akhilesh

Many analysts feel that Akhilesh Yadav's image will take a beating with the inclusion of a tainted leader like Ansari. The chief minister has tried to maintain a distance with such leaders in the past.

Last month, he was seen pushing back another muscleman politician Atique Ahmed during a public function in Kaushambi. The video of the incident had gone viral on social media.

The SP leaders had claimed that Akhilesh Yadav was firm on not giving importance to tainted leaders in the past.

Facing the Owaisi-Yogi challenge

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) Chief Asaduddin Owaisi has made clear his intentions of putting up a big show in the upcoming UP elections. He is concentrating on Muslim and Dalit votes to make inroads into the Poorvanchal region.

In April, Owaisi had tried to organise a rally in Mulayam's parliamentary constituency of Azamgarh but the local administration refused to give permission.

The Samajwadi Party could lose a chunk of its traditional Muslim votes if Owaisi decides to field candidates in all the seats of the Poorvanchal region. It is being said that Ansari has been brought to the party fold to counter this threat.

BJP's hardline leader Yogi Adityanath and Mukhtar Ansari are old-time political foes. Both leaders had accused each other for the 2005 communal riots in Mau.

BJP is also working on its own strategy for Poorvanchal. Anupriya Patel's Apna Dal with two MPs might soon become a part of the BJP.

Apna Dal has some pockets of influence in Poorvanchal. It would be interesting to see whether Mukhtar Ansari is able to deliver for SP in the upcoming polls.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

Also read: Samajwadi Party suspends four MLAs for cross-voting in Rajya Sabha polls

First published: 21 June 2016, 8:09 IST