It began with an electoral defeat, and the wounded personalities led to a bloody aftermath.
In 2004, after Atiq Ahmed won the Lok Sabha election for the Phulpur constituency, his younger sibling Ashraf ran for the Allahabad West Assembly seat on a Samajwadi Party ticket. These elections were necessitated by Atiq Ahmed’s resignation to become an MP.
For Ashraf, victory was a foregone conclusion, but he unexpectedly lost to BSP’s rookie candidate Raju Pal.
Atiq Ahmed was unable to comprehend the defeat because it posed a threat to his own fiefdom.
The electoral struggle morphed into political rivalry, and on January 25, 2005, the day before Republic Day, as Raju Pal was driving home from Swaroop Rani Nehru hospital in the Sulem Sarai neighborhood of the city, he was fatally shot by assailants who heavily opened fire on his vehicle.
In addition to Raju Pal, two others were slain in the attack, and the autopsy revealed that approximately 18 bullets were discovered in Raju Pal’s corpse.
A CBI investigation into the incident identified ten suspects, including Atiq Ahmed and his junior brother.
Puja Pal, whom Raju Pal married just eleven days prior to his murder, ran for the Allahabad West seat but lost to Ashraf. However, the BSP again nominated her for Assembly elections in 2007 and she won.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, Puja lost to Siddharth Nath Singh of the BJP, but she gained the Chail constituency in the 2022 elections.
Despite his brother’s best efforts, Ashraf’s political career failed to take off, and he never forgave Raju Pal and his associates.
Umesh Pal, a close friend of Raju Pal, was the primary witness to his assassination.
Umesh Pal was kidnapped in 2006 and compelled to testify in favor of Atiq Ahmed and Ashraf in the Raju Pal homicide because he refused to yield to Atiq Ahmed’s coercion.
In the abduction case, Atiq Ahmed and his sibling Ashraf were convicted and given a life sentence a month after Umesh Pal was murdered in February of this year.
In the interim, Umesh Pal’s independence grew, and he no longer felt comfortable trailing behind Raju Pal’s widow, Puja Pal.
According to various sources, Umesh Pal was gaining acceptance in the Karwariya faction.
Former BJP MP Kapil Muni Karwariya and his brother, former MLA Uday Bhan Karwariya, received life sentences for the assassination of SP leader Jawahar Yadav.
In 2017, when Neelam Karwariya, Uday Bhan’s wife, won the Meja seat on a BJP ticket, Umesh Pal became acquainted with the family whose influence was expanding by the day.
Interestingly, a number of Atiq Ahmed’s supporters converted to the Karwariya family, and photographs of Ghulam Mohd posing with Neelam Karwariya at her birthday celebration are circulating on social media.
In one video released after the murder of Umesh Pal, Puja Pal can be seen reprimanding Umesh Pal’s wife for “feeding parathas to those people despite my warning.”
The authorities did not pursue this angle for unknown reasons.
According to sources in Prayagraj, Umesh Pal was murdered because his loyalty to both Atiq and Karwariyas was suspected.
Puja Pal’s deliberate reticence on the murder of Umesh Pal and its repercussions leaves much to be said.
Since investigators are focusing so intently on Atiq Ahmed’s role in the assassination, the truth may never be known.