Poll politics in UP heats up as Ashish Mishra Teni out of jail

The timing of the bail raised eyebrows as all the eight Assembly seats in Lakhimpur Kheri will go to polls on February 23

New Delhi: Electoral politics in Uttar Pradesh heated up as Ashish Mishra (Teni), the son of he minister of state (home) Ajay Mishra Teni and the prime accused in Lakhimpur Kheri violence, walked out of jail on Tuesday after being released on bail. Ashish, who was arrested on October 9, was granted bail on February 10. Lakhimpur Kheri jail superintendent told the media that Ashish Mishra was released after fulfilling bail conditions and procedure.

The timing of the bail raised eyebrows as all the eight Assembly seats in Lakhimpur Kheri will go to polls on February 23, the fourth phase of Assembly elections in the state. While the Opposition went up in arms over his release, farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said that the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) will move the Supreme Court over the issue.

On October 3, during the farmers' agitation, four farmers were killed at Lakhimpur Kheri after they were allegedly mowed down by an SUV convoy. It was alleged that Ajay Mishra was sitting in the car that mowed down the protesting farmers and that he also opened fire on them.

Incidentally, in Lakhimpur Kheri, that falls in the sugarcane belt, the BJP had been walking on razor's edge following the farmers' protests and October 3 violence. In 2017, the BJP had won all eight Assembly seats here. Lakhimpur Kheir, dominated by Brahmins, also has a sizeable Muslim and Kurmi population.

Breathing fire over the bail, Mr Tikait said, "Does one need a system in which someone mows down people under a vehicle and then walks out of jail in three months?" A section of BJP leaders apprehended that Ajay Mishra's bail "might have serious ramifications in Punjab". They also felt that it would give the Opposition a "major handle to attack the government."

While there has so far been complete silence from the saffron camp over the release, sources revealed that the induction of Ajay Mishra, the lone Brahmin face from UP in the Union Cabinet, was mainly to strike a chord with the upper caste in the state. The BJP under Yogi Adityanath, a Rajput, was perceived as being "anti-Brahmin."

After the Lakhimpur violence, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi had said, "The Prime Minister will not suspend Ajay Mishra as he needs the upper caste."

The Lakhimpur Kheri incident had triggered nationwide outrage and the Opposition demanded sacking of MoS Home. With reports emanating that the upper caste vote, particularly that of Brahmins, was moving away from the BJP in UP, the party apparently was in no mood to take action against Mishra, sources said.

Ajay Mishra who was missing from campaigning following the incident was, however, brought back to campaign in the Brahmin-dominated Lakhimpur Kheri a couple of days back.

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