Behind bars, musclemen still keep EC on its toes

With five of the seven phases of the Assembly elections complete, the Election Commission's latest challenge is to see that the remaining two phases are conducted equally fairly and peacefully. This is relevant because the EC so far has received praise for the conduct of polls from many quarters and the two phases will now see many don-turned-politicians in the fray—either fighting the poll battle themselves or by proxy.

Amarmani Tripathi, the prime accused in poetess Madhumita Shukla murder case, recently addressed a public meeting in Lakshmipur Assembly segment of Mehrajganj district over a mobile phone from inside Dehradun jail. Abhay Singh, another politician with a criminal background, has fielded his wife Sarita Singh on Apna Dal ticket from Bikapur seat in Faizabad and conducted a meeting of the sector-in-charge inside the jail recently. National general secretary and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Munna Singh Chauhan has lodged a complaint against Abhay accusing him of giving threatening calls to voters from the jail. An accused in several murders, Abhay is lodged in Faizabad jail.

Jitendra Singh alias Babloo, who is the BSP candidate from Bikapur, is another don-turned-politician. He is said to have been constantly sending messages to voters and influential people of the constituency seeking support.

Then there is Mukhtar Ansari, who has a history of winning elections from inside the jail. Mukhtar and his brother Afzal Ansari, an SP MP, have been regularly holding meeting of supporters in Gazipur jail. Following complaints from opponents, the EC directed Director General Prisons Mahavir Yadav to shift Mukhtar to another jail. He is now being shifted to Jhansi jail. Mukhtar is contesting from Mau while his brother Shigatulla Ansari is the SP candidate from Mohammadabad against BJP's Alka Rai. She is the wife of slain BJP leader Krishnanand Rai, in whose murder Mukhtar is the main accused.

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