Gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari died of cardiac arrest on Thursday. He was lodged at the Banda district jail in Uttar Pradesh.

At around 8.25 pm, Ansari fell unconscious and was taken to the Rani Durgawati Medical College in Banda, reported The Indian Express.

“A team of nine doctors gave him immediate medical assistance,” read a statement by the hospital. “Despite best efforts, he died due to cardiac arrest.”

Ansari had a total of 65 cases against him. He had been in jail since 2005 after he surrendered to the police in connection with a communal riot that took place in the town of Mau.

On March 14, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court for MPs and MLAs in the 34-year-old Ghazipur fake arms licence case. This was Ansari’s seventh conviction in the past 18 months.

After his death, police were deployed in large numbers around the Rani Durgawati Medical College and prohibitory orders were issued across the state.

Heavy police presence was also reported in Mau, Varanasi and Ghazipur, where Ansari had been influential for decades, reported The Hindu. The police also conducted flag marches in the districts.

Allegations of poisoning

Meanwhile, Ansari’s son Umar Ansari alleged his father was poisoned in prison and said that the family would move court.

“Two days ago I came to meet him, but I was not allowed,” Umar Ansari was quoted as saying by ANI. “We said earlier also and even today we will say the same about the allegation of giving slow poison. On March 19, he was poisoned in the dinner. We will move to the judiciary, we have full faith in it.”

He also said a postmortem would be conducted on Saturday.

On March 21, Mukhtar Ansari told a court in the Barabanki district that his health had deteriorated after he was served food allegedly laced with poison inside the prison, reported PTI.

He alleged that he was poisoned 40 days ago as well.

“I feel like I’m going to choke,” Ansari said in an application filed through his lawyer Randhir Singh Suman.

The lawyer said that Ansari’s health was “completely fine” before this and requested the court to form a team of doctors for his proper treatment.

In December, Umar Ansari moved the Supreme Court apprehending an “imminent and serious threat” to his father’s life, reported Live Law.

He told the court he had received reliable information that his father’s life was in grave danger as there was a “conspiracy afoot involving people within the state establishment to assassinate him” in the Banda jail.

Political leaders express condolences

The Samajwadi Party expressed sorrow and extended condolences to Ansari’s family.

Party leader Ameeque Jamei demanded a thorough investigation into the death. “We stand with the family of Mukhtar Ansari,” said Jamei. “Recently he said that he can be murdered anytime... Why he was not given a proper medical facility?”

Congress leader Surendra Rajput also raised questions regarding Ansari’s death. “Today Mukhtar Ansari’s death in the jail raises a big question Bharatiya Janata Party-led Uttar Pradesh government,” he said. “This should be investigated thoroughly so that everyone gets to know what is going on.”

Asaduddin Owaisi, chief of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen, said that the people of Ghazipur had lost their favourite son and brother.

Ansari’s paternal house is in Mohammadabad in Ghazipur.

Owaisi said that Ansari had made serious allegations against the administration that he was poisoned. “Despite this, the government did not pay any attention to his treatment,” he said. “Condemnable and regrettable.”