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Strongman era return looms large
- Acquittal of leaders in criminal cases threatens to rewrite politics in state

Patna, Aug. 8: The recent acquittal of three bahubalis (strongmen) — a former MP and two former MLAs — in a murder case has triggered a debate whether their writ would return to Bihar’s badlands.

The Patna High Court acquitted former LJP MP Surajbhan Singh and two former MLAs, Vijay Kumar Shukla alias Munna Shukla and Rajan Tiwary, in the murder of former state minister Brij Bihari Prasad in 1998.

The three bahubalis — facing charges of murder, kidnapping and extortion — figured as accused and were sentenced to life in 2009. They were debarred from contesting general elections in 2009 and 2014 and Assembly polls in 2010. But they were not wholly cut off from power. Surajbhan’s wife Veena Devi got elected as MP from Munger, Munna’s MLA wife Annu Shukla unsuccessfully contested this year’s Lok Sabha election from Vaishali as a rebel JDU candidate. Annu, who represents Lalganj in the Assembly, returned to the JDU.

Another strongman-turned-politician, Rama Kishore Singh alias Rama Singh, went to the Lok Sabha on an LJP ticket from Vaishali. He contested despite a permanent arrest warrant as at least 18 cases of murder, kidnapping, extortion and attempt to murder are pending against him.

In 2010, former Gobindganj MLA Rajan Tiwary fielded his brother Raju as an LJP candidate after he was handed life sentence in CPM legislator Ajit Sarkar’s murder case. Rajan himself had got elected in 2005. “He has been exonerated in both the Brij Bihari and Ajit Sarkar murder cases but is yet to revive his political career,” his confidant said.

Strongman-turned-politician Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav — acquitted in the Ajit Sarkar murder case — contested on a RJD ticket from Madhepura and defeated Sharad Yadav. His wife, Ranjit Ranjan, went to Lok Sabha from Supaul on a Congress ticket.

A practicing lawyer, Sunil Kumar, said: “Munna Shukla and Rajan Tiwary can contest elections as they have been exonerated in the Brij Bihari murder case, but Surajbhan cannot. An appeal is still pending against him in the Rumi Singh murder case in which he had been sentenced to life.”

Two other strongmen — Md Shahabuddin and Anand Mohan — are not so fortunate. Former MP Shahabuddin, serving a sentence in the Siwan divisional jail, fielded his wife Heena Sahab twice from Siwan, in 2009 and 2014, but she lost both times.

Shahabuddin was recently accused of plotting the murder of Roshan Kumar — an eyewitness in the murder of his elder brothers — from behind bars. Similarly, former Sheohar MP Anand Mohan, serving a life term in former Gopalganj district magistrate G. Krishnaiyah’s murder, fielded his wife and former MP Lovely Anand from Sheohar but Brij Bihari Prasad’s widow Rama Devi defeated her.

On the return of strongmen in politics, RJD state vice-president and former BRA Bihar University students’ union leader Harendra Kumar said: “Unke kar gujarion se sab wakif hain. Boliye kum, samajhiye jyada (All are aware of their misdeeds. The lesser said the better).

As their role in politics expands the strongmen’s mode of operation, too is changing. Earlier they would play a direct role, like being at the crime scene or pulling the triggers themselves. But they now, largely, let their henchmen do the job.


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