In April end, Uma Krishnaiah, the widow of murdered Gopalganj district magistrate and IAS officer G Krishnaiah, moved the Supreme Court, challenging the premature release of former Bihar MP and gangster-turned-politician Anand Mohan, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing her husband in 1994.
Anand Mohan Singh was released from Saharasa jail in Patna after being behind bars for 15 years following an amendment in Bihar’s prison rules. The Supreme Court on Monday (May 1) has agreed to hear Krishnaiah’s petition on May 8.
The petitioner has contended that the life imprisonment awarded to Singh meant incarceration for his entire natural course of life and it cannot be mechanically interpreted to last just 14 years.
“Life imprisonment, when awarded as a substitute for death penalty, has to be carried out strictly as directed by the court and would be beyond application of remission,” she said in her petition before the Supreme Court.
Anand Mohan’s release dents Nitish Kumar’s image
Whatever may be the outcome of the widow’s petition, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s USP all these years has been good governance but the early release of a gangster-turned-politician Anand Mohan Singh from jail only creates doubts about the former’s credentials as ‘Sushashan (good governance) Babu’.
Former MP Singh was serving life imprisonment for the murder of an IAS officer G Krishnaiah who was lynched in north Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district in 1994 by a mob on the instigation of Singh. In 2007, a trial court awarded capital punishment to Singh, making him the first politician in independent India to be sentenced to death.
Also read: Anand Mohan Singh release will dent Nitish Kumar’s political standing
The Patna high court, however, commuted his capital punishment to life imprisonment a year later. Subsequently, he challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court but the apex court turned down his plea. Since 2007, Singh was behind bars in Saharsa jail till he was set free early morning on April 27 following amendments to the Bihar Prison Manual, 2012 by the Nitish government.
JD(U) chief spokesperson and former minister Neeraj Kumar defended the don turned politician’s release saying that the state government had allowed Singh’s remission of sentence by following all the norms. He said that the State Sentence Remission Board, which includes two members of the judiciary had approved Singh’s premature release.
The state government is fully prepared to present its side before the Supreme Court, he added.
Nitish is under sharp attack from the Opposition and other sections of the society including the family members of slain IAS officer Krishnaiah, ever since his government tweaked the jail manual to pave way for the premature release of Singh from jail.
Political analyst Indrajit Singh felt that Nitish’s image as a tough administrator has suffered a dent at a time when he is trying to play a major role in national politics and possibly also emerge as the Opposition’s PM face in the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
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An anti-Dalit leader
He said that Nitish purely for political reasons courted such a controversy and also gave a chance to the Opposition to attack him on this issue. Since the victim IAS officer was from the Dalit community, attempts are being made to project Nitish as an anti-Dalit leader, he added.
Gangster-turned-politician Singh’s release is an anti-Dalit action and BJP will try to woo Dalit votes on the issue, asserted the political analyst. Other political parties whose main support base consists of Dalits and also Dalit organisations will also make an attempt to paint Nitish as anti-Dalit leader.
“We have already seen how BSP supremo and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati made an attempt to do so,” he remarked. In fact, Mayawati had tweeted, “Bihar government tweaking prison manuals to get Anand Mohan released from jail is being talked about as it was a manifestation of Nitish Kumar’s anti-Dalit mind set.”
Reacting sharply to the premature release of Singh from jail, former Patna College principal and political analyst Dr Nawal Kishore Choudhary said, “It is not only morally incorrect to release Singh by tweaking the jail manual but it also exposes the hollowness of Nitish’s claims on zero tolerance against crime.” Further, he said Nitish’s claims on high values in politics also stand fully exposed.
“It has also eroded people’s faith in the criminal justice system too as a murder convict can be freed prematurely in such a fashion too,” he added.
Dr Choudhary said that the murder of a senior government official is not like a murder of an individual, as it is an attack on state power, which represents people. In case of the murder of a government officer, the accused should be awarded harsher punishment but Nitish government on the contrary ensured his early release from jail, he added.
Also read: Who is Anand Mohan Singh, ex-MP released from prison amid controversy
Anand Mohan violated jail rules
Political analyst Alok Mohit said that the sentence of Singh should not have been remitted at all as he had violated rules even while he was in jail. He said that the state government’s claim that Singh’s conduct inside the jail was proper while he was serving the life sentence is far from the truth. And questioned how the remission of Singh’s sentence was allowed in such a case.
In 2021, an FIR was filed against Singh at Sadar police station in Saharsa, as several smartphones, mobile phones and other phone accessories were recovered from his possession during a raid in his cell in 2021.
Only on August 12 last year, Singh was seen at his home with family and supporters, after he was produced before a court in Patna. Singh had even held a meeting with his supporters at his Patna residence.
During Singh’s stopover at his residence, his wife and former MP Lovely Anand, and his son and RJD MLA Chetan Anand, were also present. A picture of the meeting had also gone viral on social media.
Political analysts like Mohit felt that Singh’s release will not make any impact on the Nitish government as such but it has definitely exposed the government’s intention behind it. Another political analyst pointed out that the government has to ensure all those 27 prisoners who have been prematurely freed again don’t violate the law of the land.
Singh’s release also robs Nitish’s chance to attack BJP over the release of 11 people convicted of the rape and murder in the Bilkis Bano case.
Nitish’s own government went to the extent of tweaking the jail manual for Singh’s early release so how can he now question BJP on this count? remarked a political analyst on the condition of anonymity.
In the Bilkis Bano case, convicts were released from jail on the order of a court but in this case, Nitish government itself played a proactive role in the release of a person who was serving life sentence following his conviction in the murder of an IAS officer.
Why did Nitish free him at this juncture?
So, what had prompted Nitish to free Singh at this juncture? Nitish has set free the strongman of Kosi region with the Lok Sabha election, which is just one year from now. Political observers said that Singh has been released at this time, as RJD chief Lalu Prasad as well as chief minister Nitish Kumar want to give him sufficient time to consolidate the votes of Rajputs and other upper castes as much as possible in his pockets of influence.
“Had Singh been released from jail just a few months ahead of the election, the Opposition would have been in a better position to make an issue out of it by directly linking his release with the election. It is the reason he was released nearly one year ahead of polls,” commented a political analyst.
On the other hand, former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said it should not be forgotten that Nitish not only released Singh but also 26 other convicts. He said that out of these convicts, 13 are from the Muslim and Yadav communities, considered as the mainstay of the RJD’s support base. The grand alliance government released these convicts ahead of the Lok Sabha and assembly elections to take their help in the polls, he added.
Also read: Gangster-turned-politician Anand Mohan Singh released from Saharsa jail
Only time will tell whether Nitish’s gameplan to woo Rajputs by releasing Singh from jail will pay any dividends to the grand alliance in the future elections.
Political analyst Mohit said that Singh has been released from jail to woo Rajputs in certain pockets of Kosi region. It is difficult to say how much impact he will be able to make, he added.
According to political analyst Singh, the gangster-turned politician is a ‘spent force’ and would not be able to make an impact in the future elections. “Whatever influence he had in the Kosi region of the state, now it has evaporated as he had been out of public memory for so many years. He has no clout any longer,” he remarked.
Political observer and academician Dr Sanjay Kumar also echoed his view. He said that the present political circumstances are not in the favour of Singh for reviving his political fortunes. This is because he played his politics mainly by polarising upper caste voters by vehemently opposing 27 per cent reservation given to OBCs following the implementation of Mandal commission’s recommendations in 1992. He had also created a Robin Hood image for himself among a section of people but now he cannot repeat such a thing to shine in the state politics.
Since Bihar politics is revolving around OBCs, it will be difficult for Singh to make a mark on the political scene with the strength of upper caste votes. After three decades, youths are not ready to get swayed away by sentiments whipped up by any leader, he added.
On the contrary, political analyst Pravin Bagi said that Singh continues to wield influence in state politics. “Even if Singh cannot ensure victory of a candidate, he can harm the electoral prospects of his opponents by cutting into their votes,” he reckoned. It remains to be seen if Singh’s premature release amid lot of nationwide criticism will help or harm Nitish in the long run ahead of the 2024 national elections.