Shamli: In the early 1990s, when this rivalry first began, it was just a local fight for dominance over a small, sleepy town in Western Uttar Pradesh. Hukum Singh and Munawwar Hassan have since remained locked in a see-saw tussle for Kairana, even after their deaths.
While they battled against each other for at least two decades, their political legacies have now been handed over to members of their respective clans, who are eager to appropriate the inheritance.
The battle for Kairana is as much a BJP versus united opposition battle as it is a battle between the 'Singhs' and 'Hassans'. For Kairana’s political ‘gharanas’ (households), there are challenges galore both within and outside the family fold.
The Kairana Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after the death of sitting BJP MP Hukum Singh in February. Singh, a political veteran, represented Kairana in the UP Assembly and Lok Sabha on three different party tickets –Janata Party (Secular), Congress and BJP. He first became the MLA from Kairana in 1980 on a JP(S) ticket and then again in 1985 on a Congress ticket. In 1991, he was upstaged in his own backyard by Munawwar Hassan, who fought on a Janata Dal ticket.
That was when the political rivalry between the two families began. Between the two of them, they have represented Kairana eight times in the Assembly and two times in the Lok Sabha, spanning six different political parties (Hassan, at different points, was in the SP, BSP and RLD).
Since 1991, every Kairana MLA has been from either of these two families. Hassan passed away in a road accident in Haryana’s Palwal in 2008. Singh passed away ten years later of a prolonged illness. But the rivalry didn’t die with them.
In 2012, four years after Munawwar’s death, his brother Anwar Hassan fought the assembly polls on a BSP ticket against Hukum Singh and lost.
In 2014, Hukum Singh resigned as the BJP MLA from Kairana to fight the Lok Sabha election, which he won. In the ensuing Vidhan Sabha bypoll battle, the baton was passed on to the next generation. Munawwar Hassan’s son Nahid contested against Hukum Singh’s nephew Anil Chauhan. Nahid won the election narrowly but this sowed the seeds of discord in Hukum Singh’s family.
Chauhan quit the BJP ahead of the 2017 UP polls when Hukum Singh chose to favour his daughter Mriganka for the BJP ticket.
“It is an open secret that Hukum Singh has wanted the seat for his daughter. He has been lobbying for it since he fought the Lok Sabha polls. He was let down when I got the ticket so he sabotaged my chances so that his daughter would get the ticket in 2017. I can assure you that far from winning the seat, she will not even be second. I knew about this sabotage for a while and that is why I decided to quit the party and contest from the RLD. I am the son of a farmer so my views are consistent with those of the RLD,” Chauhan had told News18 then.
However, after his uncle’s death, Chauhan chose to bury the hatchet with his cousin and returned to the BJP and the family fold. He has decided to support Mriganka Singh, who is now the BJP candidate for the Kairana bypoll.
All seemed well with the Singhs. But the same could not be said of the Hassans. Munawwar’s brothers, Anwar and Kanwar, went from RLD to BSP to SP and finally to the Lok Dal. This year, Kanwar, the youngest of three brothers, is contesting the Kairana bypoll election on a Lok Dal ticket against his sister-in-law and Munawwar’s widow Tabassum Hassan, who is the joint opposition candidate. His differences, Kanwar insisted, were political and not familial.
While on Thursday, Kanwar, like Anil, returned to the family fold and decided to throw his weight behind Tabassum, it wasn't before some mud had already been flung on both sides. Besides, it took a political heavyweight, RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary, to convince Kanwar to join the party and withdraw from the race.
“I have no family grudge against anyone. Our politics are completely separate. The Muslims of the area will never forgive her (Tabassum) and her son for standing silently during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. They use religion to their advantage when it suits them when the fact is, they forgot the community during the riots. Our differences are political,” he told News18 before rejoining RLD.
Nahid Hassan had hit back at his uncles and alleged that they had struck a deal with the BJP. “Earlier this year Anwar Hassan, my elder uncle, became the Chairman of the Kairana municipality. BJP workers had helped him in the election. This time, they have struck a deal with BJP leaders in Lucknow. If they can defeat my mother, they will be given cabinet berths. But the people will not let it happen.”
When asked why he quit the Samajwadi Party, Kanwar said, “When I was in the SP, there were camps in the Yadav family. Since I was loyal to Shivpal Yadav, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to stay on.”
However, a senior Samajwadi Party leader had a different story to tell. “The brothers (Anwar and Kanwar) wanted tickets from Kairana and Budhana. They almost got them too. But then the party’s reign went from Mulayam Singh Yadav to Akhilesh, who chose to trust the younger Nahid Hassan. Akhilesh’s gamble paid off and Nahid won.”
What started as a fight between Hukum Singh and Munawwar Hassan in the 1990s has now become a full blown family Mahabharata with multiple characters and fickle, ever-changing loyalties.