Prayagraj prepares for an election without Atiq Ahmad

Prayagraj: Six Prime Ministers of the country have had a strong connection with Prayagraj, earlier known as Allahabad, but sadly, today, the constituency is known for all the wrong reasons.

From Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to Lal Bahadur Shastri to Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi to Vishwanath Pratap Singh and also Gulzarilal Nanda (who studied in Allahabad University) – all these Prime ministers had a strong connection with Allahabad.

However, the emergence of gangster Atiq Ahmad in politics from 1989, changed the complexion of the constituency.

Atiq won his first assembly election in 1989 from the Allahabad west seat. He retained his seat in the next two assembly elections, and in 1996, the mafioso-politician won his fourth consecutive term, this time on the Samajwadi party’s ticket.

In 2004, he won the adjacent Phulpur seat on a Samajwadi Party ticket.

He contested a total of 11 elections out of which he won six.

His political journey also marked his growth as a gangster whose clout increased with every passing election.

The importance of Prayagraj as a seat of learning and intellect was lost in the gangster’s den.

Atiq’s office – now demolished – in the Chakia area was the focus of his power that flowed from his guns.

Even after his arrest in February 2017, his kingdom continued to flourish. He was shifted to the Sabarmati jail in Gujarat on the orders of the Supreme Court in 2018 and his eldest son Umar took over the reins.

“We used to cast votes after receiving instructions from Atiq’s office. There was no confusion once the instructions were given,” says a Chakia resident on condition of anonymity.

He further says, “Now with Atiq’s sons Umar and Ali in jail, Asad’s death in an encounter and his wife Shaista Parveen absconding, there is no one to carry forward his legacy. Atiq’s youngest sons Ahzaan, and Abaan are minors and are living with a relative after his murder last year. For the first time, voters in Prayagraj will cast their vote on their own decision in the 2024 polls.”

The local resident said that though many may deny it now, the fact remains that politicians from all parties would meet Atiq and seek his support.

“Some knew that he would never support them yet they sought his ‘blessings’ simply because they wanted to neutralise his hostility towards their party,” he added.

Sources, however, claim that some candidates may still use his name to get sympathy votes in the upcoming elections.

“His name still wields clout and there is a section of people that have sympathy for the family. A candidate could get the advantage of these votes if he plays his campaign well,” said Amritanshu, a local journalist.

The BJP, interestingly, has not yet announced its candidate for Prayagraj while Ujjawal Raman Singh of SP, who has joined the Congress, is tipped to be the INDIA bloc candidate on the seat.

Prayagraj will go to polls in the sixth phase on May 25.

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