August 17, 2016
A big battle lies ahead of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, and he is aware how tough it is going to be. In conversation with staff writer Swati Mathur, Times of India, Akhilesh Yadav spoke about the intoxicating situations in Uttar Pradesh.
The 2017 assembly election in UP will be big, and you will be the centre of it. What will be your election slogan?
In 2012, we started an ad campaign without a slogan, just a video of a cycle overtaking an elephant. Then we came up with ‘Ummeed Ki Cycle’ and went to the people. Now, we’ve moved to ‘Ummeedon Ka Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh’, and ‘Roz Naye Kadam’, to highlight things we have done beyond our manifesto promises. I believe people want to see what we can offer to them. We have instilled confidence in democratic principles and given them faith that we will deliver.
But Law and Order remains a sticking point.
This is not true, an easy way to attack the Samajwadi Party government with. There are some incidents that cannot be stopped. I am deeply sorry about what happened in Bulandshahr. The incident occurred on a busy highway and no one noticed. We caught the gang and took immediate action. The Bulandshahr incident was unfortunate. Two medical supervisors sexually assaulting a woman employee at a Gurgaon Hospital is just as bad. This was never highlighted the way Bulandshahr was. Is a hospital safe or a highway? People play politics over incidents.
No one doubts your focus on development, but there is a perception that your party isn’t aligned with you fully.
There used to be talk about how UP has four-and-a-half CMs. Those who talked about this the most, can’t find a CM face for their party. Everyone should contest, work hard, and fight well. SP will be in contest with different parties in different constituencies. I can safely say SP will be in the contest across UP. We have organisational strength.
Is there a possibility of Gathbandhan?
We have a lot of work to show on the ground. It makes no sense for us to tie up with anyone, before or after the polls. We are confident that we will form the government again. We can only do better if we get another term.
Your father has publicly scolded you on many occasions. Does that sometimes hurt you?
No, not at all. I’ve said this many times -he is the same man to me at home that he is outside. I don’t know how other fathers are like. In case of Netaji, what’s in his heart is what he is outside.
What do you discuss at the dining table?
(Laughs) We don’t discuss anything. I put my kids in front by asking them to have dinner first and say I will join later. On a serious note, I think his objections, when they come, should be taken in the right spirit. If there’s something wrong in the party or government, who else will he alert but the Chief Minister?
How are your own equations with Prime Minister Modi? What is your impression of him?
UP has suffered since BJP came to power. We have lost financially-over Rs. 100 crores. We sent out a letter to the Centre saying we only want what was due to us. Social sector schemes have been stopped and people are protesting. With the 7th pay commission and GST, states are additionally burdened.
But your party has supported the GST Bill.
Yes, we have. We have made our concerns known to the centre. There has been no clarity on how GST will affect them.
The BSP has a clear image in terms of law and order perception.
Perception that Mayawati maintained law and order doesn’t mean that she was being even-handed to all. Ask government officers here; they were not able to enter the CM’s house with their shoes on. They were humiliated. If law and order was so good, then how was it that BSP was reduced in numbers to such an extent in the 2012 polls? You cannot imagine the injustice done. A party president’s house was burnt by BSP workers. A journalist was beaten up inside his home when he threw a party. Even I was picked up from inside the Lucknow airport where even was CISF was brushed aside. How can any of these be seen as good administration.
But how do you counter this perception of poor law and order?
Allegations of poor law and order and corruption can be levelled against any government. We are bringing Dial 100, the state wide, round-the-clock police response centre. There are three key issues pertaining to law and order in UP; the first that people’s complaints are not heard, that police do not respond, or come late and third, that FIRs are not easy to register. I am resolving each.
The first point of attendance for all the phone calls that are received will be women. We will ensure, response time is reduced to under 15 minutes, and the FIRs are register soon after. You will see the change soon.
There’s a moment in every politician’s life when he becomes a statesman. Do you think you have reached that level of statesmanship where people look up to you and do something because you’ve said so?
This is a process that takes time. Although my political career has been a long one, I can say people in Kannauj look up to me. Also, when land was to be acquired for the Agra-Lucknow expressway, I told them to give up land and that would benefit them in the long run. They agreed, and the acquisition was completed without any protest.
It will be a while before I win the confidence of people across UP. People have watched us closely, and we are building trust. Once we hit the campaign trail, we will also talk about and show our work.
When you will start the campaign?
Very Soon. My rath is being readied. Wherever the rath cannot go, I will cycle.
Will you contest the elections yourself?
No. I am an MLC and my term expires only in 2018. This way I get to travel and campaign more. I think I can win more seats for the party if I travel and campaign.
You have been the youngest chief minister of UP. In your experience of governing UP, how will you define this state?
It’s a big state where people are politically aware. Differences of caste, religion and class exist, but they are only made known at the time of elections. During non-election times, you will not find anyone complaining about which caste or religion he or she is from. That is that side of UP which rarely gets talked about. The story of a people who have always lived together, despite their differences.
UP’s uniqueness is that we are the largest producers of most things, from milk to potatoes and wheat. We can be the model to how the rest of the country runs.
Uttar Hamara feels great to share the views of visionary Akhilesh Yadav, who has been working selflessly for the state and taken negative things in the right spirit!