It began with a defeat in an election, and the bruised egos had a bloody fallout. In 2004, after Atiq Ahmed won the Lok Sabha polls to Phulpur constituency here, his younger brother Ashraf contested from Allahabad West Assembly seat – polls necessitated after Atiq Ahmed resigned to become an MP – on a Samajwadi Party ticket. For Ashraf, victory was a foregone conclusion but he surprisingly lost to Raju Pal, a novice candidate fielded by the BSP.
Atiq Ahmed could not digest the defeat since it came as a challenge to his own fiefdom. The electoral tussle turned into political rivalry and on January 25, 2005, a day before Republic Day, when the BSP MLA was leaving for his home from Swaroop Rani Nehru hospital, a car overtook his SUV in the Sulem Sarai area of the city and Raju Pal was shot dead by assailants who heavily opened fire on his car.
Two other people along with Raju Pal were also killed in the attack and the post-mortem report had stated that around 18 bullets were found in Raju Pal’s body. A CBI probe into the incident named 10 persons as accused including Atiq Ahmed and his younger brother. Raju Pal’s wife, Puja Pal, whom he married just 11 days before his murder, then contested from the Allahabad West seat but lost to Ashraf. However, she was again given a ticket by the BSP in 2007 assembly elections and she won.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, Puja lost to BJP’s Siddharth Nath Singh but won the 2022 polls from Chail seat. Ashraf`s political career could not take off despite the best efforts of his brother and for this, he never forgave Raju Pal and his friends. Umesh Pal, an associate of Raju Pal, was the main witness in his murder.
Since Umesh Pal refused to succumb to Atiq Ahmed`s pressure, he was abducted in 2006 and forced to give a statement in court in favor of Atiq Ahmed and Ashraf in the Raju Pal murder. Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf were convicted and were awarded a life sentence in the abduction case, a month after Umesh Pal was shot dead in February this year.
Karwariya family’s entry into the scene
In between, Umesh Pal’s stature grew independently and he was no longer comfortable tagging behind Puja Pal, widow of Raju Pal. Sources claim that Umesh Pal was finding acceptance in the Karwariya camp. Kapil Muni Karwariya is a former BJP MP and his brother Uday Bhan Karwariya, a former MLA – both were awarded a life sentence for the murder of SP leader Jawahar Yadav. When Uday Bhan`s wife Neelam Karwariya won the Meja seat on a BJP ticket in 2017, Umesh Pal became friends with the family whose clout was growing by the day.
Interestingly, a number of Atiq Ahmed`s supporters also switched loyalties to the Karwariya family and photographs of Ghulam Mohd – who was shot dead with Asad on Thursday – posing with Neelam Karwariya at her birthday party are doing rounds on the social media. After the murder of Umesh Pal, in one video Puja Pal is seen reprimanding Umesh Pal`s wife for `feeding parathas to those people despite my warning`. The police, for some reason, did not pursue this angle.
Sources in Prayagraj now say that Umesh Pal was killed because his loyalty was suspected – both to Atiq and to Karwariyas. Puja Pal’s studied silence on the Umesh Pal murder and its consequences also leaves much to be said. However, since investigators are firmly focusing on Atiq Ahmed`s role in the murder, the truth, perhaps, will `never be known`.