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Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav

Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav

Akhilesh Yadav says he is banking on development to return to power next year. In an interview to Rohini Singh and ManMohan Rai, he shrugs off threat from BSP and BJP, rules out a partnership with BSP on the lines of the JD(U)-RJD alliance and refuses to accept Nitish Kumar’s suggestion to ban liquor. Excerpts: 

Two chief ministers have retained power. Do you expect a similar result in Uttar Pradesh next year? 

Sometimes the political wheel spins in such a manner that governments are voted back for the first time. In Tamil Nadu, it’s after 32 years that a government has been repeated. In West Bengal, a government has been repeated. In Bihar too. States bordering UP are returning governments. So in UP too, I think, SP will return to power.

And I am saying this because whatever we promised in our manifesto, we have kept our promise. Also, the state has progressed under us. A balanced development is what we have done in UP. Look at the expressway. Or the improved power situation. UP is a state where there have always been a lot of protests. We have now ensured that those protesting don’t need to sit in the heat anymore. (laughs)

Are your critics right in saying that it’s only in the past two years that the pace of work has picked up in UP?

That’s natural. To make the expressway, for instance, we had to first acquire land. If we had to get investments, we needed to firm up policies first. And I was a first-time CM (laughs).

What is your biggest achievement?

After four years, I can safely say we have got UP in the direction of growth and development. Forget the awards, now we can emphatically state that the fastest metro made in any city has been in Lucknow. The fastest expressway made anywhere is here. We are setting up sugar mills in a record time of just nine months, which took two years earlier. 

What are your biggest failures as CM?

I wouldn’t say we have any because the previous government never did anything. (laughs). Vo to patthar ke upar patthar (They only piled stones; reference to the Mayawati regime’s focus on building statues). They are record holders of the Stone Age. We have created milestones on the other hand.

Who is your main opponent – BSP or BJP?

We can’t ignore anyone. BJP might have done poorly somewhere but they have also won in some places. So I am sure they will try some new trick here…. They have raised only those issues which divide people. We have to be careful. The poor show of their MPs and their central government has been noticed.

So, who is your bigger rival of the two?

People want a progressive government that goes above religion, caste and looks at development only. Some people are so good at hisab-kitab (record-keeping) that they will put a stop to everything else. Vo suitcase zyaada dekhte hain aur policy kam (They look at suitcase more than policy). We have had such a government.

What will be the main issue in the UP polls?

Development obviously. People don’t want a government that will install elephants instead of expressway. (smiles)

Do you mean that Mandal/Kamandal won’t be issues in UP this time?


They will become issues, we need to be careful.


Do you foresee an increase in communal polarisation closer to the election?


They have tried but haven’t been successful so far because the government has exposed them. BSP claims we are with the BJP. We are going to form a government on our own, so how can we be hand in glove with the BJP.


That happened at the level of Netaji (SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav). They appointed Netaji president of the Mahagathbandhan and only they can tell us what his role was supposed to be. UP is different. Now the same people ( Nitish Kumar ) are roaming around in UP. Now even I can say they are helping the BJP in UP. Shuruaat to Ganga ka tilak karke ki (They started with a Ganga tilak).

I am not against the sentiment but somewhere there is the thought that a beginning can be made by putting chandan. Even I pray but don’t make a show of it. I would begin my campaign in Varanasi by inaugurating a road and not by Ganga aarti. So we are seeing what they are doing there. And I can say they are hand in glove with the BJP.


Kumar has held two rallies in UP recently…

We want him to come here and work hard and he must show us what his model is. But he shouldn’t copy us there (laughs). We distributed cycles and laptops first. It’s good that they are following all our good schemes…


He has also suggested that you follow his prohibition policy.


There should be big warnings on alcohol bottles. We will advise people not to drink but those who do, how can I stop them?

Does that mean you won’t ban liquor in UP?


See, our state is bigger than Bihar. In villages here old women even smoke bidis. They (Bihar government) expect us to seal the borders. Hindustan-Pakistan ka border hai (Is it India-Pakistan border)? I would advise them to spread awareness among people instead.


What do you make of the move to pitch Nitish Kumar as a Kurmi face in UP as well?

He may damage us but we are not fighting him. The work we have done speaks for itself.


Are you facing this allegation because your party walked out of the Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance in Bihar?


Yes, that’s true.


Do you think a Mahagathbandhan sort of alliance can work in UP?

It seems difficult. I don’t think any party wants a secular alliance like the one we saw in Bihar.


Can’t SP and BSP get together the way Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad got together in Bihar?

It was BJP that created a fight between us. I don’t know what the future holds but as of now there cannot be any alliance between us.


Will SP be part of the national coalition that Nitish Kumar is putting together?

It’s difficult to say at this point, but I am sure some sort of a secular front will emerge. Things will become clearer after the President’s election. Who aligns with whom will become clear then. So will who will lead the secular front.


Sharad Pawar has said Nitish Kumar is the number one face for any anti-Modi front.

He is an experienced politician. (laughs)


Will SP be part of the national coalition that Nitish Kumar is putting together?

It’s difficult to say at this point, but I am sure some sort of a secular front will emerge. Things will become clearer after the President’s election. Who aligns with whom will become clear then. So will who will lead the secular front.


Sharad Pawar has said Nitish Kumar is the number one face for any anti-Modi front.

He is an experienced politician. (laughs)


What do you think is the reason for the decline of the Congress?


They were not able to bring in development the way they could have. It’s been 25 years since the markets have opened up. But progress hasn’t been as promised.


Is a Congress-mukt Bharat possible?

Ab to hai hi (Now it is so). Haal filhaal to dikh hi raha hai (It has become evident of late). (laughs). BJP should also disappear, then things will be perfect.


What is your view on getting professionals to manage polls the way Congress is doing?

I don’t want to speak on its matters. They were involved in the freedom struggle. And today they need professionals to help them strategise. How unfortunate is that? But what is even sadder than that is that azaadi ki party kehti hai humein Brahmin face chahiye (the party that fought for freedom says it needs a Brahmin face).

But don’t all political parties look at caste?

But they are doing it so obviously. Who says it as openly as the Congress is saying?

Will Congress gain if Priyanka Gandhi becomes the party’s face in UP?

That’s a good thing. At least new ideas will come into that party.

Do you think Rahul Gandhi would have evolved as a better politician if he had taken the plunge as you did by becoming CM?

How can I decide for him? I would just thank Netaji for giving me the opportunity. This is something all political parties should do to support their leader. I don’t know why the Congress did not do it. Maybe the same allegation would have been cast on him as has been cast on me. (smiles)


Which allegation are you referring to?

That there are five CMs in UP.(laughs)

But haven’t you overcome that?

That is because our work stood out. The senior party leadership will always guide us.

BJP says Azam Khan has not been cooperative and that’s the reason Varanasi is suffering.

You people understand everything. You know which schemes get in money. Ask them, are they sending money through any specific scheme? If there is electricity for 24 hours in Varanasi, that is because we are giving it.


Are you getting support from the Centre?

We want cooperation in terms of funds. Our funds have got cut because of NITI Aayog. We just want what is due to us.

Will you support the GST Bill?

That depends…as long as the state doesn’t lose out. What is the formula? Will they be flexible in the formula for states with big population?

How do you read the recent elections?

I have congratulated those who have won. I was only surprised to see BJP doing so badly.

Has the BJP done badly?

They have won one state. We knew Mamata Banerjee would return, so would Jayalalithaa. Kerala also voted along obvious lines.

Why do you think the BJP got such a decisive mandate in Assam??

They are shrieking from rooftops about it. I don’t know what wall they will construct. Kuchh bhi ho deewar banane se kisi ko labh nahin milta (Nobody gains from erecting walls). Badi soch rakhni padegi (They will have to think big). There is a train coming from China to Kathmandu. When will the central government pay attention to that?

What is your wider communication strategy for the UP election?

We are giving Samajwadi pension to more than 55 lakh women. What if a new government comes in and stops it? What will happen if the work on the expressway is stopped?

How do you rate the Modi government?

The results of Delhi, Bihar, Kerala, Tamil Nadu speak for themselves.

Amar Singh is now back in SP.


Netaji has taken the decision to call him closer.


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