Edit & Opinion

Bahubali-Khadi Nexus: Crime is now politics

By Poonam I Kaushish

The sordid saga of dreaded gangster Vikas Dubey of Kanpur with over 60 cases to his name came to a grisly end Friday when he was shot dead in an ‘encounter’ with the police trying to escape enroute from Ujjain to Kanpur. A tale of an ambush wherein 8 policemen were killed to an encounter which culminated in his killing in eight days!

Only someone dimwitted lacking common sense would believe that Dubey was killed by police in ‘self-defence’ as he fired at them trying to flee. This explanation is so ludicrous and hackneyed it raises more question than answers. How did he get past Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan’s sealed borders and police who were on his lookout?  Was his surrender staged? Why wasn’t he handcuffed? What explains his audacity to kill eight policemen on duty?

Importantly, was the ‘encounter’ to save political ‘big fishes’? Was his killing a conspiracy to destroy evidence linking him to certain Parties and politicians? Who wanted their secrets to be buried with Dubey? Why haven’t his call records been made public? How does one explain the car discrepancy, one crossing a toll booth near Kanpur and another with the gangster overturning on the highway? Why were media stopped by the police minutes before the encounter?

Undoubtedly, nobody is willing to speak about his crimes and the leaders who protected him. While some suggest that Dubey knew too much about the men in khadi and khaki and he had to be liquidated for those dirty secrets to remain masked. This is corroborated by slain DSP’s March letter to Kanpur SSP warning about this nexus and the gangster’s mole within.

Others aver it was a Brahmin-Thakur tussle for caste hegemony in the State headed by ‘Thakur’ Yogi Adityanath wherein he was considered the Robinhood who held an over 1 lakh Brahmin vote bank in several constituencies in Kanpur.

Think. Dubey has been controlling his village Bikru’s panchayat for over 18 years first as head followed by family members as members. His wife is a member of the Samajwadi Party. He has been photographed with politicians and top Government officers. In a 1990 murder case, all witnesses, most of them police personnel, turned hostile. Ditto in 2001 when he was acquitted for killing a BJP State Minister in front of two dozen policemen, strangely the BJP Government did not appeal the verdict.

In 2006 with 50 cases against him he was released on bail. He was arrested in 2017 for murder but was set free in 2019 due to no witnesses. Oddly, his name does not figure in the STF list of over 30 top criminals in the State list or the top 10 in the district even though he has criminal cases registered against his name.

He gained his dabang political stature in 2001 under BSP patronage, followed by the Samajwadi in 2012 and was presently reportedly rooted to the BJP and was readying to fight the next Assembly polls in 2022.

Clearly, the Dubey case has all the markings of a corrosive political culture and the troubling inter-linkages between politicians, criminals and policemen which is an integral part of UP and Bihar’s political landscape. Of Bahubalis who have the brawn and financial muscle to “deliver” to their political mai baaps across Party lines in lieu of patronage and protection. Many like Maharashtra Arun Gawli become MLA’s and boast of their “bullet proof” jacket.

Thanks to a weak police and legal system which ensures that mafia-turned netagan get away with murder. They rule by law: use force with impunity, collect protection money, settle disputes unlike the State bogged down in legal wrangles and use loads of money to muscle out honest candidates. A milieu of jo jeeta woh sikander, a vicious circle of you scratch my back, I scratch yours!

Alas, today, Parties are brazenly nominating criminals as candidates resulting in racketeers and murderers filling the rogues’ gallery of power and fame. Worse is the criminal content in States. Rough estimates aver that in any State election 20% candidates are criminals. In UP 143 (36%) of 403-MLAs, Bihar 142 (58%) of 243 MLAs face criminal charges of whom 70 (49%) have already been charge-sheeted. Arguably, with such legislators, how can we expect to remove crime from the country?

Scandalously, criminal are crowding out honest candidates at the national and State level. According to a recent report 45.5% ‘criminal’ candidates win against 24.7% with clean backgrounds. Thus, in this self perpetuating system the growing Indian middle class is not averse to electing criminals if they can become their patrons and deliver goods.

In a milieu where power translates into a numbers game, there are no surprises why mafia dons invest large sums in getting a neta’s tag. It is a ticket to continue extortions using political power, gain influence and ensure that cases against them are dropped. Besides, the returns on political investments are so high and profitable that criminals are disinclined to invest in anything else.

From criminalisation of politics to politicisation of crime, India has come full circle. Whereby mafia dons get away like escape artists, thanks to legal delays, often abetted by political pressures, making convictions rather rare. Resulting in the number of mafiaso-politicos rapidly multiplying in legislatures ushering in a new don (read dawn) wherein yesterday’s mafia dons are today Right Honourables a law unto themselves and all-powerful. Wherein an MP-MLA tag, acts like a magic shield from police, encounters and rivals. Hence, our system has unwittingly created huge incentives for criminals to enter politics.

Bringing things to such a pass that our jan sevaks dance to the tune of their underworld benefactors at the cost of the people. Consequently, with apradhi-banne-netas democracy is being boxed in three stages — mafia box, cartridge box and ballot box! It is this mutual benefit and camaraderie between the criminal-Party nexus which is the cause célèbre for our netagan.

One could dismiss this politicization of crime as an evolving phase of our democratic process. But the tragedy is that our democratic system has been usurped by criminals. Be it a petty thug, dus numeriya or a mafia don. The only thing that matters is on whose side the criminal is. His or ours? They are all the same. Only the degrees differ.

Kudos to the Election Commission which is all set to implement the Supreme Court order February directing Parties to give reasons for nominating candidates with criminal cases instead of a decent citizen to voters in the forthcoming Bihar Assembly polls. And that it was not the candidate’s “mere winnability” which goaded it to give him a ticket to contest elections. More, it should explain to people through published material how the “qualifications or achievements or merit” of a candidate, charged with a crime, impressed it enough to cast aside the smear of his criminal background.

True, Dubey’s death might be the full stop of one Bahubali’s story but it heralds the time has come for a broader investigation into the trend of gang lords thriving with impunity and should help trigger a much needed change in police and electoral laws to tackle criminalization of politics, act independent of partisan pressures to usher in corrective qualitative change in political principles.  An overhaul of the complete theatrization of Constitutional democracy.

Indeed, Dubey’s killing is a test case for not only the Yogi Government but also other States on how it handles the Bahubali’s case against the backdrop of the polity vowing to clean-up crime and restore law and order. Our rulers need to answer two questions. How many murder charges are required before a criminal is held guilty? And will politics be ever de-criminalised ? Else, today’s criminal king-makers may be tomorrow’s kings!

 

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