Who was Mukhtar Ansari? the dreaded ‘Bahubali’ of eastern Uttar Pradesh?


Lodged in different jails of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for most of the time since 2005, Ansari was once among Uttar Pradesh’s most dreaded ‘bahubalis’– a Hindi word for strongmen who are into politics too. 

Ansari represented the Mau (Sadar) assembly seat in eastern Uttar Pradesh between 1997 and 2022. 

Convicted in BJP MLA’s murder

While he was acquitted in most of the cases against him, Ansari, 60, was, however, convicted in at least eight criminal cases since 2022. In April 2023, Ansari was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for the 2005 murder of BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai. 

Police say Rai’s killing was the most sensational murder in the history of Uttar Pradesh. Rai’s body was sprayed with bullets along with six others in Ghazipur by a group of assailants armed with AK-47 assault rifles. Over 400 bullet shells were recovered from the crime scene. 

Also Read: Mukhtar Ansari death: How did gangster-politician die? Brother responds

Rai had defeated Mukhtar’s brother and five-time MLA Afzal Ansari from Mohammadabad in the 2002 Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls. Mukhtar was in jail in a riots case at the time of Rai’s murder. 

In June 2023, Ansari was convicted in the 1991 murder of Awadesh Rai, brother of Congress leader Ajay Rai, who is contesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Varanasi in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Earlier this month, he was awarded a life sentence for his involvement in a fake arms license case dating back to 1986. 

The Famous and Infamous 

Ansari was born on June 30, 1963, in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh. The photographs hanging on the walls of his ancestral house, known as ‘pathak’ in Mohammadabad, bear witness to the many famous and infamous personalities the Ansari family has given to the country.   

The famed ones first. Mukhtar’s paternal grandfather, Dr Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, was a freedom fighter and the Congress party president in 1927–28. He was also among the founding members and former Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi. His maternal grandfather, Brigadier Mohammad Usman Ansari, known as the ‘Lion of Nowshera’, was a Mahavir Chakra awardee. Former Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari, is also related to the family.

Now, the infamous ones. Mukhtar’s brother, Afzal Ansari, is the BSP MP from Ghazipur. Afzal, who also has a criminal history, has been fielded by the Samajwadi Party from Ghazipur in the upcoming Lok Sabha 2024 elections. 

Also Read: Mukhtar Ansari death news: ‘My father was given slow poison’, Son Umar Ansari claims

Mukhtar’s jailed son Abbas Ansari, also a convicted criminal, is an MLA from Mau seat. He won elections in 2022 on the OP Rajbhar-led Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party’s ticket. Rajbhar is a minister in the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government.

Another brother, Sibgatullah Ansari, is also a former two-time MLA from Mohammadabad in Ghazipur district. Sibgatullah’s son, Suhaib Ansari, is an SP leader and the incumbent MLA from Mohammadabad. 

Political-Criminal Nexus

Those who have followed the criminalisation of politics in Uttar Pradesh say that Mukhtar started gaining popularity for the first time in the 1980s and 90s when the village panchayat and assembly polls in the state were held under the shadow of dacoits. 

Mukhtar is said to have started his political career in the 1990s as a student of Banaras Hindu University. Soon, he got involved in scrap, mining, and railway contracts and expanded his network in the world of crime in eastern Uttar Pradesh or Purvanchal. His first tryst in the crime world was as a shooter in the Makhanu Singh gang. 

To many in Mau, Mukhtar is one of the ‘Robinhoods’ in the region. Right from Varanasi to Mau, over 100 km away, Mukhtar’s name echoes across the Purvanchal region even though he has spent most of the last 19 years in jail.  

Mukhtar won his first assembly election from Mau (sadar) in 1996 as a Bahujan Samaj Party candidate.  Until 2022, he had won the seat a record five times, even when he was in jail. He was defeated in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls by BJP stalwart Murli Manohar Joshi in Varanasi, the seat now represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Voters electing leaders with criminal backgrounds is no secret in Uttar Pradesh. Of the 403 new lawmakers elected to the Uttar Pradesh assembly in 2012 polls, 205 have criminal cases, including murder, pending against them, according to election watchdog, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). This number was 143 in 2017.


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Published: 29 Mar 2024, 08:04 AM IST


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