New Delhi: Six criminal-politicians, including Atiq Ahmad who was shot dead Saturday, were furloughed from different jails in just 48 hours with little fanfare in 2008, with a book on “Baahubalis” claiming their votes were crucial to save the embattled UPA government and India’s civil nuclear deal with the US.
The Opposition had brought a no-confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh dispensation and at stake was his United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and the nuclear deal.
Among these six legislators, who collectively had over 100 criminal cases against their names, was the then Samajwadi Party’s Lok Sabha MP Atiq Ahmad, who represented Allahabad’s (now Prayagraj) Phulpur constituency.
The book — “Baahubalis of Indian Politics: From Bullet to Ballot” — authored by Rajesh Singh and published by Rupa Publications mentions how the gangster-politician had the distinction of being one of the musclemen who saved the UPA government from a collapse.
The Left parties had withdrawn their outside support to the regime in mid-2008 over the government’s decision to proceed with a civil nuclear deal.
“The UPA had 228 members in the Lok Sabha and was short of 44 seats for a simple majority to overcome the crisis of confidence. Prime Minister Singh, however, expressed confidence that he would survive. It soon became evident as to where that confidence came from,” Singh writes.
He notes that the Samajwadi Party extended support, as did Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) to the UPA while there were others, including the “Baahubali netas”, who did their bit.
“Forty-eight hours before the vote and with little fanfare, the government furloughed six of the nation’s most prominent suspected lawbreakers — collectively facing over 100 cases of kidnapping, murder, extortion, arson and more — so that they could fulfil their constitutional duties as lawmakers,” the book states.
“One among them was Ateeq Ahmed, a Samajwadi Party lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh, with a conspicuous handlebar moustache and a penchant for safari suits. He dutifully cast his precious vote, no doubt in favour of the beleaguered UPA. The don had, by then, established himself in both politics and crime,” according to the book.
He was a five-time MLA from Uttar Pradesh, having forayed into electoral politics successfully in 1989. He became a member of the Lok Sabha in 2004 elected on a Samajwadi Party ticket, though, less than five years later, the party would expel him on grounds of his criminal record.
Ahmad (60) identified himself as a politician, contractor, builder, property dealer and agriculturist but also had serious criminal charges to his name including of kidnapping, extortion and murder.
Ahmed and his brother Ashraf were shot dead Saturday night in Prayagraj in a dramatic turn of events when three assailants posing as journalists opened fire on them in the middle of a media interaction. The Ahmeds were handcuffed together as they were being escorted in police security at a hospital for mandatory health checkup. As they alighted from the police jeep, surrounded by police personnel, and were trying to answer questions by the media persons, they were shot dead in full view of the camera.
Earlier on Saturday, Atiq’s son Asad was buried in Prayagraj, a day after he was killed in an exchange of fire with the UP police’s Special Task Force in Jhansi. No close family member, including the beleaguered gangster himself, could attend the burial.
Briefing reporters about the deadly shootout, Prayagraj Police Commissioner Ramit Sharma on Saturday said the three assailants, who were arrested immediately after the incident, had joined the group of reporters who were trying to get sound bites from Ahmad and Ashraf.
“In accordance with a mandatory legal requirement, Atiq Ahmad and Ashraf were brought to the hospital for a medical examination. According to preliminary information, three men posing as journalists approached them and opened fire. Ahmad and Ashraf were killed in the attack. The attackers have been held and are being questioned,” Sharma said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has formed a three-member judicial commission to probe the killing of Atiq and his brother, according to officials.