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Battle for Ghazipur: Afzal Ansari Playing Sympathy Card

In an unprecedented realignment of political allegiances, the odyssey of Afzal Ansari appears to be an introspective evaluation of the teleological imperatives in the service of the polity

Facing a court case that threatens potential disqualification even if elected, Mukhtar Ansari’s elder brother and Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Afzal Ansari urges Ghazipur voters to express their dissatisfaction by securing a record victory for him. Unlike typical election candidates, Afzal Ansari’s vehicle is notably devoid of marigold garlands. His convoy, consisting of three SUVs and a few young men on motorcycles, navigates the narrow roads of Ghazipur’s interior villages almost silently.

In an unreserved conversation with senior journalist Ravindra Ojha of The Interview World, Afzal Ansari openly discusses a range of topics. Here are the key insights from his interview.

Q: Can you describe your current campaign in Ghazipur and its unique elements?

A: Absolutely. My vehicle is free of the marigold garlands that typically signal an election candidate. Instead, we navigate the narrow roads of Ghazipur’s interior villages with quiet determination, accompanied only by three SUVs and a handful of young men on motorcycles.

Q: Your political journey has been quite itinerant. Can you tell us more about it?

A: Indeed, my political journey commenced with the Communist Party of India. Subsequently, I secured victory in the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 under the banner of the Samajwadi Party (SP). In 2019, amidst the strategic alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), I emerged victorious once more. Presently, I have realigned myself with the Samajwadi Party.

Q: This election seems particularly significant for you. How does your brother Mukhtar Ansari’s legacy influence your campaign?

A: Mukhtar’s significant influence casts a formidable presence over the upcoming election. His demise on March 28 within the confines of Banda jail, coupled with the impending verdict in the long-standing case tied to the assassination of BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai, stands as pivotal concerns. Furthermore, the retention of Dalit voters after the transition back to SP from BSP presents a notable challenge.

Q: During your stump speech in Harsingh Patti village, what were the key points you addressed?

A: In my address, I covered a range of pertinent topics, spanning from Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign to the BJP‘s unfulfilled pledge of generating 2 crore jobs yearly. Critically, I scrutinized Prime Minister Modi’s policy choices, including the controversial demonetization and his administration’s management of the COVID-19 crisis. Transitioning to a somber note, I concluded by raising concerns over the demise of Mukhtar, positing allegations of foul play, suggesting he may have been poisoned by governmental entities.

Q: You have been vocal about being labeled as a “mafia” by the government. How do you defend yourself?

A: The government labels me as part of the mafia, yet I’ve consistently stood as a savior for the impoverished. Can you imagine a mafia figure donning ‘hawai chappal’ or navigating the streets in a twelve-year-old car? However, this deliberate distortion aims to coerce voters, yet it holds no sway.

Q: Your family’s history is often mentioned in your speeches. How do you see this influencing your political stance?

A: Our family boasts a distinguished legacy. Dr. MA Ansari, our esteemed ancestor, emerged as a prominent figure, serving as both a fervent freedom fighter and the President of the Indian National Congress in 1926. Furthermore, our lineage contributed notably, with twelve members actively incarcerated in the pursuit of India’s independence. Regrettably, this storied past has rendered us susceptible to the envious eyes of those bereft of such honorable lineage.

Q: How do you perceive the constituency configuration in Ghazipur for this election?

A: The Yadavs and Muslims forge a formidable alliance in this constituency, establishing a dominant electoral force. The SP has secured four out of the five Assembly segments, solidifying its stronghold. In the 2019 elections, I clinched victory over Manoj Sinha, buoyed by substantial backing from Dalit and Muslim electorates. However, the landscape has shifted this time, with formidable contenders emerging in the form of BJP’s Paras Nath Rai and BSP’s Umesh Kumar Singh. Anticipating the volatile political climate, my daughter, Nusrat Ansari, took precautionary measures by filing her nomination as an Independent. Nonetheless, my candidacy remains steadfast and unwavering.

Q: Finally, what is your appeal to the voters of Ghazipur?

A: The BJP’s implementation of the ‘bulldozer model’ has unfairly singled out our properties. Nonetheless, the people have decisively overturned BJP’s advancements in Purvanchal during the 2022 assembly elections. Consequently, I anticipate a similar outcome in the current Lok Sabha polls.

I implore the electorate to seek justice for my brother Mukhtar’s untimely demise at the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) booths. We must demonstrate Ghazipur’s staunch stance against injustice and coercion. By turning out in unprecedented numbers at the polls, we can unequivocally convey our dissatisfaction and endorse the pursuit of a government that upholds fairness and equity.

Afzal Ansari Addressing an Election Rally in Ghazipur
Afzal Ansari Addressing an Election Rally in Ghazipur
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