LUCKNOW: In a controversial move, Samajwadi Party today embraced gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari's Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) into its fold, giving fresh ammunition to the opposition to target the ruling party over law and order issue ahead of next year's Assembly polls.
QED merged with SP amid hopes of the ruling party that it will help it tap the muslim vote bank in eastern Uttar Pradesh especially in Ghazipur, Mau and Varanasi. "QED, having two MLAs, is today merging with SP after which the ruling party will be strengthened ahead of the curcial 2017 assembly elections," SP spokesman and senior cabinet minister Shivpal Yadav told a press conference here.
"We have merged as we did not want to act like vote cutters in assembly polls," said QED President Afzal Ansari whose party has two MLAs -- Mukhtar Ansari and Sigbatullaha Ansari. Both are Afzal's brothers and the trio had founded the party in 2010. Interestingly, Shivpal suggested that Mukhtar Ansari, the jailed MLA of QED, was not among those who had joined SP.
"At present only those here are joining SP. We did not have any talk with Mukthar," he said in reply to a question. The mafia don, who is in jail for his alleged involvement in the murder of former BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai, had in 2014 Lok Sabha elections decided to contest against BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi but withdrew in the end.
Soon after the merger announcement, opposition parties slammed SP. "It reflects the ruling party's desperation ahead of the 2017 polls," said BJP spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak.
"Earlier, it roped in Beni Prasad Verma and Amar Singh, both of whom used to spew venom at Mulayam Singh Yadav, and now it is tying up with those parties which it kept at arms length during the previous polls," Pathak added.
Regarding Shivpal's contention that there has been no talk with Mukhtar about his joining SP, the BJP spokesman said, "In a party of two MLAs, how can one join and another not." In a similar refrain, Congress spokesman DP Singh said the merger shows "growing frustration" within the ruling party which is trying all "fair and foul means to retain power by hook or by crook".
Opposition parties have targeted Akhilesh on several occasions for patronising 'goonda raj' in the state. When mediapersons sought Akhilesh's comment on the issue, he evaded a direct reply and merely said, "If party workers perform their responsibilities, then there was no need of another party."