‘If two young leaders come together, people’s hopes will rise’

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav: " If I am setting up a Mughal Museum, I am also taking care of Ayodhya and Ramayan."   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

After seven public meetings on Monday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, 43, has a bit of hoarse throat. That, however, doesn’t deter him from taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati. In an exclusive interview with The Hindu at his official 5 Kalidas Marg residence in Lucknow, Mr. Yadav seems to be in full control of the party and its campaign, leaving the family spat behind him. Following is excerpts of the interview:

Tell us how the alliance with the Congress was reached.

Sometimes you just build a friendship. Some people say that after a certain age, friendships happen according to needs. It’s good that we have reached an alliance [with the Congress]. So far, the chemistry with Rahul Gandhi has been very good. We are the same age, we think alike. He wants the country and the State to develop. We also want the same.

When did you feel the need for such an alliance?

I can tell you what the Samajwadis feel about the Congress. They feel that when the Congress is at its weakest, it will find the Samajwadis closest to it. I feel that the Congress was weak and friendship with the Samajwadis is also fine. On occasion, time and circumstances decide whom you are going [allying] with.

Both Rahulji and I are young leaders. Feuds between Congress men and the Samajwadis may have happened in the past. But they should remember that all Samajwadi leaders are products of the Congress. At that time, the Congress was the only Opposition party. Obviously, if there was one ruling party, they will fight against that [party] only.

Today, the times have changed. We need political formations that can protect the secular fabric of the country and take on communal political parties like the BJP. There should be someone to take on political leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah and the kind of language that they use.

I can say that the alliance happened because we both are young leaders who want to take Uttar Pradesh forward. The State determines the political course of India and will continue to shape the future of the country’s politics too. If we work together from now, then the decisions we have to take in times to come will become easier and we can help in giving a new direction to India’s politics.

Has the alliance with Congress come a little late?

This is a key question. If you have an early alliance then it becomes easier to take party workers along. Many of our decisions have been taken at the last moment and there’s little doubt that we have got less time to make the alliance function. At the beginning, there were some issues in our family [refers to the feud with his uncle Shivpal Yadav] and a lot of time was wasted on this.

Could the alliance have happened earlier if the family issues were not there?

It may not have happened then. I said in the beginning that the alliance happened in a particular time and circumstances. If these things [family matters] had not cropped up and some political decisions didn’t have to be taken, then this alliance may not have happened. But the time and circumstances were such that we had to have this alliance to give a message to people that a progressive government could return in the State. If two young leaders come together, the people’s hopes will rise.

In sum, it [having an alliance with the Congress] was a good decision and the results flowing from this decision will be good. That’s the bigger gain.

What has led to the SP abandoning the anti-Congress path? Can there be an alliance with Congress in Lok Sabha polls?

Any human being and political party first sees its own interest. First, we are looking at U.P. and then the rest of the country. It will be too early to say because currently we are only working on this Assembly polls. Only after this election, we will decide whether we will stay together or not.

You have emerged as the victor in the family feud. You have control over the party and you are setting its agenda. How do you feel about it?

Since becoming the party president, I haven’t given thought to anything else other than the elections. Of course, we have an election manifesto and my effort has been to have a rural-urban balance in the manifesto. We are possibly the first political party that is talking about the environment, forests, ecotourism and the green path — a green manifesto.

We are the first political party, most certainly in U.P., that is talking about traffic issues in cities. We are talking about resolving the traffic problems in every city in U.P. If we think about this problem today, only then we can find solutions tomorrow because these cities will become massive in time.

The issues of garbage and sewage disposal that were previously confined to cities have now become rural issues too, as villages are expanding. All this is part of the Samajwadi Party manifesto.

You can also see the impact of big infrastructure. We took very little time to construct the Agra-Lucknow Expressway. If I get the opportunity, I have promised in the manifesto to construct a 340 km expressway in 30 months [Lucknow to Ballia]. I am happy that 60% of the kisans [farmers] have given up their land. It will probably be the biggest six-lane, expandable to eight lane, access-controlled expressway anywhere in the country. This will improve the State’s economy, even the country’s economy. I am also making mandis [markets] along the expressway.

You have completed five years in government. Tell us about your top three achievements and three difficult moments.

Given that our State is massive, I can say that we worked on infrastructure at one level and the other on what can be delivered to the poor through social schemes. On the infrastructure front, priority was given to road construction. If we can double the speed [of road construction], we can triple the [growth of the] economy. That’s my belief.

Like they say in the United States — the U.S. made roads and the roads made the U.S. At the minimum, we should give good roads that provide door-to-door connectivity. Our farmers will benefit most from these roads — if cities are being linked, so are villages. The second challenge was to at least create the system and infrastructure for electricity, because U.P. is not known for its power supply. But today we are surplus; we were deficient earlier. We purchased almost 3,000 MW after bidding. We built substations and feeder systems. After doing all this we have been able to provide 24 hour power supply to cities and 16-18 hours to villages. It is a big achievement for a State like U.P., which was considered to be power deficient.

Staying with electricity, the PM made a comment about Diwali and power supply…

He was wrong about the data. We provided 2,000 MW more during Diwali than we did for Ramzan. And for Diwali, I decided that, as a festival of lights, I will provide every district headquarters with 24 hour electricity supply. Since that Diwali, there has been 24 power supply across the State.

In your view, is there politics behind Mr. Modi’s comment?

I have followed the Prime Minister’s speeches for long. He spoke about police stations, that they have Samajwadis posted there. But let me tell you, I have given to the State one of the best police infrastructures — the UP 100 for police response. This is as good as what you have abroad. Only thing, we have to upgrade it and train the police people. So today, if anybody is in distress or any problem, [the] police reach them quickly, within five or 10 minutes, and 15 minutes in the villages. Which State offers this? The Prime Minister did not have knowledge of this when he spoke. He is still talking about old things. They should see what U.P. is doing. And I have done this without their help.

Second, he talked about electricity during Ramzan. His data is wrong. I am providing electricity on Holi, Diwali as well as Christmas. Then, he said that boundary walls of graveyards are being built, while those at crematoriums are not. There would be disputes in villages about boundaries of graveyards. With the help of the administration, we ensured their marking and provided them a secure location. We have a mixed society and fabric. We tried to prevent any conflict. If we are working for Muslims, we are also working for others. In some of the Christian schools, I am building good auditoriums. The Prime Minister is unaware he does not have the correct data. I am doing what is necessary for society.

Are you trying to suggest that your ‘UP model’ is superior to the ‘Gujarat model’?

I don’t know what the Gujarat model is, but I can say this they have not been able to construct a Metro [line] in 15 years, but we are making Metro [lines] in four places. [The] Prime Minister is talking about sitting in our Metro but I tell him when will you let us sit in your Metro? The first Metro stretch in Lucknow is almost complete. Kanpur we have started. Ghaziabad second stretch we have done. Finished. Noida, Great Noida section we are doing. So, [in] four places we are constructing the Metro here. In three other cities, I am making DPR [detailed project reports].

If I am back again as the Chief Minister, I will construct a Metro in Varanasi also. And that is the Prime Minister’s constituency. There also I am giving electricity 24 hours. So that’s what I said, the Prime Minister comes to Varanasi and says Ganga Maiyya has called him. I tell him aap Ganga Maiyaa ki kasam khao and say whether I am giving electricity 24 hours in Varanasi or not? When he’s talking about Ramzan and Diwali, he should talk about his constituency also. And who is giving electricity? We are supplying 24 hour power to Varanasi — it’s not the Central government, it’s a State subject and [the] State government is doing it. It’s up to us. If they want to go to court, let them.

There was an incident of lynching in Dadri. How do you think your government handled that incident? Do you feel that it cast a shadow on your administration?

The Dadri issue was handled with responsibility by the government and police, otherwise it was the BJP’s attempt to turn it into a Muzaffarnagar-type issue. Somehow we could manage [to prevent that] thanks to those police officers and [the] administration. We took absolutely correct decisions then. Due to that, we were saved. Otherwise, just imagine, somebody says that some food is kept in your fridge and people come and kill you... Tomorrow some other people will ask, ‘Why are you eating chicken?’ Suppose I do not eat [meat], will we fight over it? There is no sense in this. There are people in society who want to make political gains out of this.

You are the Prime Minister, you have travelled to so many countries, you create an aura, you do a marketing thing so well... to the world you want to show something. Today, society is transparent. You cannot stop news... news is read in [the] U.K. and U.S. You talk about graveyards... by raising this, you are trying to defame that State which gave you more than 70 MPs.

Do you see attempts to polarise the election this time?

It won’t happen, but they are trying. They have lost ground. They have done nothing. They have only spoken about mann ki baat. They have done no kaam ki baat.

What is your sense of demonetisation...

It has not helped anyone. No poor person is happy about it. Everybody suffered. In democracy, one thing everybody should remember, whoever causes sorrow to people, when the common people get a chance, they vote out such people. In democracy, you should not make people cry for unnecessary reasons. How can corruption be stopped by demonetisation? What is black money? Where is the black money? Look at Kashmir. He said terrorists will be stopped and infiltration will stop. But look, our officers are dying there; jawans are dying. Still there is curfew in Jammu and Kashmir.

Did you face any trouble as a party, in campaigning?

We did not have money. We were busy having a fight in our house. I was so happy I had nothing (chuckles). Kehte hai na andhera aata hai toh parchai bhi chali jati hai. (They say that when darkness falls even your shadow abandons you.)

Who is your principal opponent in the election? Is it the BSP or BJP?

We are number one; it’s difficult to say who is number two and three. Both [BSP and BJP] parties are not in the fight. Both have been derailed. Mayawatiji is saying she will do development. She has built stones across Lucknow... elephants. Who will believe her, trust her? She is saying I will only do development. What development will she do? Suppose she decides to construct a bigger elephant than Sardar Patel [statue in Gujarat], then what will happen to the revenue and money of the State? If Mayawati comes, she will build a bigger statue of an elephant than Shivaji and Sardar Patel. How much money will be spent in that?

So, are you against building memorials?

No, I am not against it. I am against spending money unnecessarily. You want to inform people about your leader, you should have pictures; you should have videos. And that will not cost anything. All you want is that people understand their ideology and walk on that path, isn’t it? Arey bhai, haathi lagane se kya janoge? (What will people know about your icons if you construct elephants?) What general knowledge are these elephants providing you? Or showing you a political path... we have heard that the elephant cannot climb up a slope...

You are an engineer by training. You bring to your position a certain expertise which many of your colleagues in the rest of the country lack. Has that made your task of administration easier?

Yes, I can say that I have an advantage due to my engineering background. At least I can visualise if a road can be built faster. And an example of that, when I talk to engineers and IAS officials, I can understand, when they say a bridge cannot be built, I know a bridge can be built.

Are you satisfied with the delivery systems of the bureaucracy?

What I would say is that we have delivered. In 23 months, nobody in the country completed an expressway. We did. The very officials who do good work can also obstruct. You have to pick the right officers. You have to trust and guide them. And I think the trust will make the difference. There is also competition among officials. Even they want to perform well. If one official does well, even the others want to do well. I can talk about many projects that I have completed on time... good projects.

Were you hampered in the first part of your tenure, not able to do many of the things that you wanted to do? What did your father tell you after the elections? That I want you to be the CM?

Not really, but I had a lot to learn. I had never been a minister. I was just an ordinary MP. He said you are going to be the CM. I said aap ki marzi  (your wish).

Were you surprised?

I was quite surprised because I never wanted to be a Chief Minister. The whole campaign [2012], I did it for my party and Netaji [Mulayam Singh Yadav], not for myself.

Were there internal obstacles to your...

That hardly matters now because we have completed the term. My aim was to give results. Not to get stuck in those fights. Obstacles will arise. Results are important. Who would have trusted me had I not given results? They would have said I was engaged in the fight and did no work. At least I can say today I have done so much.

In the Lok Sabha elections, BJP raised a campaign against your alleged Muslim appeasement…

No, it is not that. I am providing Muslims their right. I am giving them 20% share in my schemes; laptop distribution, kanya vidya dhan, Samajwadi pension, taking steps for education, they are getting e-rickshaws, Urdu teachers are being recruited, I have made police recruitment easier, built boundaries for graveyards. If I am setting up a Mughal Museum, I am also taking care of Ayodhya and Ramayan. I am working and the Muslim community knows that. I am providing 24 hour electricity to Khichaucha Sharif and Dewa Sharif (dargahs). I have also given 24 hour electricity to Neemsar, Sarnath and Varanasi, what will you call me then?

Muslim reservation is not mentioned in your manifesto this time.

Even you know that reservation can be given by Delhi and not without an amendment to the Constitution. All educated Muslims know that. We have said we will keep struggling for this. My government has never worked on the basis of religion, if you are Hindu or Muslim or Sikh or Christian. For minorities we have given opportunity. This is the language of the BJP. What does the BJP want? That a Hindu helps a Hindu while a Muslim helps a Muslim. We are taking everyone along. We will not allow injustice to anybody. If anybody says we are distanced from Muslims, it is not true. If you say we are against Hindus that is also not true. If anybody says we are trying to please Hindus or appease Muslims, even that is not true. What we have is inclusive socialism.

You are the SP's face, while Mayawati is of the BSP. The BJP does not have a CM face. Is that a disadvantage for the BJP?

They have a big name in the form of the Prime Minister. They are happy with that. That is why he is talking of police stations, graveyards and crematoriums, electricity, Diwali and Ramzan. He has entangled himself.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 9:17:01 AM |

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