Dreaming of a ‘bhay-mukt-samaj’ under the leadership of dreaded mafia-turned-politicians like Mukhtar Ansari, Hari Shankar Tiwari, Kapil Muni Karwariya,  Ateeq Ahmed, Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya, Shekhar Tiwari and Dhananjay Singh to name just a few, is nothing less than making a mockery of the democratic setup. With Uttar Pradesh assembly polls round the corner and mafia-turned-politicians going full throttle, the forthcoming elections are expected to come up with a lot of ‘fireworks’ and drama.

Neighbouring Bihar which was once termed as a safe haven for criminals by voting in favour of NDA has given a thumbs down to the mafia-raaj which had dominated the state for decades. Development mingled with the security factor not only dwarfed the mafias in Bihar but most of them face crushing defeat in the assembly polls.

However, UP is yet to take a lesson from the adjoining state. UP mafias still continue to win elections while sitting in jail. Mukhtar Ansari, Amar Mani Tripathi and Sushil Singh of Varanasi, who contested the 2007 assembly elections from the jail and registered a thumping victory.

Albeit, the issue is not linked with one political party as most of them are guilty of sheltering and promoting the goonda elements. In 2007, the BSP fielded as many as 131 candidates with criminal cases, out of which 63 emerged victorious. Over 125 Samajwadi Party candidates in the 2007 assembly polls had criminal cases against their names. More than one-fourth of the BJP candidates in the aforesaid polls faced criminal charges. Hari Shankar Tiwari arrived on the political scenario largely due to Congress. Around 100 Congress candidates in the 2007 assembly polls had criminal cases on them.

Not many would have yet forgotten the mysterious death of Indian Justice Party candidate of Jaunpur seat in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Bahadur Lal Sonekar, the Indian Justice Party candidate from Jaunpur district was found hanging from a tree on April 14, 2009, around 500 metres away from his Dharnidharpur residence. The seat was eventually won by BSP candidate and mafia Dhananjay Singh.

Another shocking example was the murder of executive engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta by BSP legislator Shekhar Tiwari from Auraiya and his accomplices’ on December 24, 2008. A Lucknow special trail court sentenced Tiwari and his nine accomplices including three policemen to life imprisonment in the case.  

The defeat of Hari Shankar Tiwari from Chillupur seat in the 2007 assembly elections came as a major surprise. Undisputed mafia of Gorakhpur belt, Tiwari in 1982 was amongst the first few Indian politicians to win the elections from the jail. The impact of Tiwari’s clout can be gauged from the fact that his several relatives represent the parliament, legislative council and local bodies. Tiwari’s son Bhism is an MP from Sant Kabir Nagar, his second son Vijay lost the Lok Sabha poll to Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur.

Prior to 2007 elections, a report was submitted before the Allahabad High Court mentioning that over one fourth of UP's representatives in Parliament, the state assembly and at the panchayat level have dubious records.
Of the 80 MPs of the SP, BSP, BJP and Congress, as many as 24 are facing 128 criminal cases.

Besides, there were 271 cases against 110 of the 402 MLAs. According to the state government report, the records of 21 criminal cases against MPs and MLAs were also missing.

The eastern part of UP had about 100 assembly seats in 27 districts where several leaders with controversial and longstanding criminal records have dominated politics. In 2007, SP has 25 MLAs, BSP 18, BJP 7 and Congress has only three legislators from the region.
Mukhtar Ansari, (Independent) who is facing the murder charge of BJP MLA from Ghazipur Krishnanand Rai, contested the assembly polls from the jail and won from Mau segment. In 2009, the Bahujan Samaj Party fielded him as party candidate from Varanasi parliamentary seat against BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi. He lost the Lok Sabha by a margin of over 17,000 votes and was later expelled from the party. Ansari floated a new party Quami Ekta Dal and is expected to contest the 2012 assembly election under his party banner. His brother AfzalAnsari is the sitting BSP parliamentarian from Ghazipur seat.
Amar Mani Tripathi, a former state minister is more known for his involvement in the poetess Madhumita Shukla murder case. Convicted in the case, he is currently lodged in Varanasi jail. He has more than 30 cases against his name.

Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya (Independent and supported by Samajwadi Party/ Bharatiya Janata Party) with 35 criminal cases filed against him, won with an overwhelming margin of 53,000 votes (48%) over Shiv Prakash Mishra of the BSP from Kunda assembly seat of Pratapgarh district. He won the seat for the first time in 1993 and since then no candidate has been able to put a fight before him. In 2002, a BJP legislator had alleged Singh of arresting him. Under the Mayawati government in 2002, he was arrested at 3am. He was later declared a terrorist and booked under the charges of Prevention of Terrorism Act. After Mulayam Singh Yadav came in power in 2003, the POTA charges were withdrawn against him. He later became the Minister of Food and Civil Supplies and was provided Z-category security. The return of the BSP government in 2007 once again landed him in jail.

Badshah Singh (BSP), a don from Maudaha, is facing six criminal charges, including attempt to murder, extortion, and kidnapping. He won at Maudaha by defeating Apni Chiraiya Prajapati of the Samajwadi Party by a margin of 17,000 votes. Singh the labour minister in the Mayawati government was a period of nearly four years was recently removed from the state cabinet on corruption charges.

Named in nearly a dozen cases of heinous crime like murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping for ransom, extortion and dacoity, Akhilesh Singh is the independent legislator from Rae Bareli Sadar seat. A former Congress legislator, Singh was expelled from the party in 2003 after he switched alliance to Samajwadi Party.

Other mafia dons include DP Yadav (Rashtriya Parivartan Dal), the erstwhile liquor baron from western UP won from Sahaswan assembly segment, by a thin margin of 109 votes over Samajwadi Party incumbent Omkar Singh. His wife Umlesh too won the 2007 assembly election.