Close to two months after the results of the Lok Sabha elections, the parliamentary constituency of Ghosi in Uttar Pradesh is still in the spotlight. Despite the BJP’s massive victory in the state, BSP candidate Atul Rai was the victor from Ghosi. His win was significant in several ways.
Rai has been accused of rape and was absconding to avoid police action during the entire election campaign. The police was looking for him in all earnest. In Rai's absence, BSP supremo Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav held a joint election rally in Ghosi. Eventually, Rai ended up winning the election by around 1.25 lakh votes.
But, even after winning the election, Rai has not yet taken oath as MP. Till 21 June, a cat and mouse chase continued between him and the police. Finally, completely devoid of options, he surrendered and is currently behind bars.
But Rai’s arrest raises a pertinent question: Can he continue as the elected representative of the people of Ghosi?
Mukhtar Ansari’s Right-Hand Man
Rai’s victory from Ghosi is no fluke. He is considered to be the right-hand man of BSP strongman Mukhtar Ansari. Within political circles, it is widely accepted that Mayawati gave a ticket to Rai at the behest of the Ansari family.
After Mukhtar went to jail, the command of the gang was in the hands of Rai, who was also in charge of managing the imprisoned strongman’s financial dealings.
That the Ansari family places enormous trust in Rai is also evident from the fact that Mukhtar’s son wished to contest from Ghosi as well, but the family backed Rai’s candidature instead.
That too from a seat that the Ansari family has dominated for close to three decades.
Regardless of which party runs the government, Mau works to the command of the Ansari family. Mukhtar’s win from the Sadar constituency in the Assembly elections and Rai's victory in the Lok Sabha polls establishes their dominance in the region.
Rape Charges Against Rai
Rai had the backing of the Ansari family, benefited from the traditional vote banks of the BSP and the Samajwadi Party, and won the support of the Bhumihars as well. But, during the campaign, a rape case was filed against Rai.
On 1 May, a student filed a rape case against him at the Lanka Police Station in Varanasi. According to the student, Rai forced himself upon her with the promise of giving her a job. The BJP government in the state ensured that swift action was taken in the case.
But before the police could catch Rai, he filed his nomination papers and absconded. From Ghosi to Delhi, the search for Rai continued. To avoid arrest, Rai approached the high court and then the Supreme Court, but to no avail.
When the results of the Lok Sabha elections were declared, a lot of people were shocked. Rai had defeated BJP candidate Harinarayan Rajbhar by 1.22 lakh votes.
BJP Versus Rai
Rai may have won the election, but he knew that, with the BJP in power at the Centre and the state, the road ahead for him would not be easy. And that's exactly what happened.
Rai did not get any relief, especially given the nature of the allegations against him. With nowhere to go, he finally surrendered at a Varanasi court and is now locked up in the city’s Chaukaghat jail.
The police have been on their toes regarding Rai’s case. According to sources, the cops have prepared the chargesheet and will file it in court soon.
The complainant, meanwhile, is demanding that the case be heard daily.
Could Rai Lose His Position as MP?
The speed at which the proceedings are being conducted against Rai, it seems that the court could reach its verdict in a short time. If the decision goes against Rai and he is punished for more than two years, then his membership will be cancelled.
But, even before that, could his status as MP be revoked because he hasn’t taken his oath as Member of Parliament?
Right now, Rai’s biggest concern is to take oath as an MP, which has not been granted by the court. On 27 June, Rai had pleaded before the court to allow the him to take oath, but to no avail.
According to experts, there is no deadline for taking oath as an MP. However, no MP can join a session of Parliament without having taken the oath. But he will continue to get all the facilities available to an MP.
Sudist Kumar, the complainant’s lawyer, points out that Rai is currently in judicial custody and that the law does not permit him to take a pledge in Parliament in such a situation.
EC Case Against Rai
It’s trouble from all sides for Rai at the moment. In the affidavit submitted to the Election Commission, during the nomination process, he mentioned 13 cases pending against him. But when the Election Commission investigated the matter – after BJP candidate Harinarayan Rajbhar’s complaint – it was found that there are a total of 24 criminal cases registered against Rai.
A case has also been filed against him in Mau to this effect, for furnishing false information in his election affidavit.
On the other hand, former MP Harinarayan has also filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court accusing Rai of concealing facts and demanding that his membership as an MP be canceled.
All in all, Atul Rai may have been declared as the elected representative of the people of Ghosi, but whether he will be able to represent them is still uncertain.
For now, the possibility that Ghosi may have to choose a new representative looms large.
(This story was first published on Quint Hindi)