Akhilesh Yadav opens up on a host of issues ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was at the drawing board, finalising his party’s campaign slogans and candidates when NewsX Senior Executive Editor Priya Sahgal caught up with him for this conversation. While he was still to hit the campaign trail, he seemed very excited about putting the finishing touches to the alliance’s ad campaign which he promised will “make you sit up and take notice”. Outside his office, slogans of Bua-Bhatija could be heard, giving the indication that at least on Lucknow’s 4 Vikramaditya Marg (Samajwadi Party office), the alliance had the workers’ approval. Excerpts:
Q: You seem to have set the cat among the pigeons by coming up with the Mahagathbandhan along with Mayawati to take on the BJP?
A: Actually, the Mahagathbandhan was the coming together of common ideologies and view points to expose the lies and false promises made by the Bharatiya Janata Party in the last elections. The public supported them then; and if we have to challenge that mandate and bring back the plank of social justice which the BJP first promised and then abandoned, then it is imperative that this janata-ka-gathbandhan comes into being.
Q: But the Congress is out of this Mahagathbandhan. You said you will leave two seats for the Congress, but when the Congress said it would leave seven seats for you, why did you and Mayawati both refuse this offer?
A: The Gathbandhan was decided many months ago. Since then, we have done many exercises to see who gets what seats and then finalise the candidates. This involves a lot of work. Once we decided, we cannot go back to the drawing board and start again. The Congress should have come in when we first mooted the idea of a Gathbandhan and divided the seats among our allies. At the time, there was no offer from the Congress; it was too busy celebrating its win in three states (state elections of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh). Even today, my advice to the Congress is that it should focus on the other states.
Q: You are saying that there was no outreach from the Congress to you. Did you reach out to them?
A: I don’t know about the others, but they did not reach out to me. They were not part of the conversation regarding the general elections. Their focus was elsewhere when we were stitching up our alliance. Even during the recent bypolls (Gorakhpur and Phulpur), they fielded their own candidates. So I don’t want to go into all this now, but I also don’t want any confusion about the alliance before the elections. We have only one aim—to defeat the BJP that has endangered our democracy and all our institutions. The danger is not for us but for democracy. The strength of the BJP is to spread lies and to counter these lies, the SP-BSP-RLD have formed a coalition. Holi is a festival of colours and desh ke janata wants to change the colours of the nation and drape it with positive colours.
Q: You mean change the saffron colour? But whosoever I speak to says one thing, that before the airstrikes, the BJP may have been on the back foot, but after the airstrikes, the nation is looking for a decisive leader and Narendra Modi fits the optics.
A: This is the very lie that we want to counter. If you just take 2019 alone, there has not been one day when at least one jawan who is guarding our border has not been martyred, or been killed by the Naxals. If you take 2019 alone, every single day ek jawaan shaheed ho raha hai, kisaan atmahatya kar raha hai (farmers are committing suicide) and naujawan ke pas naukri nahi hai (youth are unemployed). These are issues that need to be raised and janata sabak sikayegi (public will teach them a lesson) for five years of misrule at the Centre and two years at the state.
Q: But you don’t have a strong leader at the Centre to counter Modi. Mayawati doesn’t have an all India appeal.
A: Why do you say that? We have a lot of choice. The UP CM today is celebrating two years in office, take any leader from Mahagathbandhan. See Mayawati’s track record on governance, delivering infrastructure and law and order. Take Mamata Bannerjee’s track record, she was first to put money in farmers’ accounts. See what she has done for girls. KCR, too, was one of the first to put money in farmers’ accounts. In UP, farmers are complaining that money is going out of their accounts. It was the SP that first used to give Rs 500 to all farmers, but this was stopped by the present government.
Q: I am noticing you have listed three names but not that of Rahul Gandhi.
A: No, I am talking about the Gathbandhan, and yet he is part of it, but the leader will be decided after the elections. The janata will decide the leader.
Q: What about Priyanka?
A: What can I say about the leader of another party? But we want young leaders to come up.
Q: Is there a connect between Dimple (his wife) and Priyanka that one heard about in the 2017 Assembly?
A: I don’t want to get into all that now.
Q: The PM has run this “Main Bhi Chowkidar” campaign.
A: I have said many times, why is he always changing issues and slogans. We have to save the nation from lies. “Chowkidar” is just a slogan and it won’t work
Q:What is your slogan?
A: We are worried about farmers, traders who lost due to demonetization. Worried about China; maximum amount of goods are coming in from China. It is not “Make in India”, but “Assemble in India”. They should not give us a dhokha, no work is being done in our infrastructure, but we are never told the truth. What are the real figures of farmer suicides, unemployment, of the manufacturing sector, where do we stand on gender equality? These are the questions that the janata will ask the PM. The “Chowkidar” is just a naara (slogan) as was chaiwala. Kyonki bina doodh ke chai banni nahin hai (Tea cannot be made without milk).
Q: BSP and SP have tied up, but will their votes transfer to the other’s candidates?
A: This is a Gathbandhan of social justice, of the poor who have been left behind of the narrative of the last five years. This is a lie being spread by the BJP, if the votes didn’t transfer, how did we win Phulpur and Gorakhpur? How did we win Kairana where the BJP was spreading the politics of hate? This is a Janata ka Gathbandhan (public is supporting this alliance) and a Gathbandhan for change. Go to western UP and see what they have done for the sugarcane farmers there, how many loans are pending. Ask the BJP this.
Q: What do you make of Mulayam Singh Yadav praising the PM recently?
A: Netaji has praised every PM in the House. Nothing new here. Look at the proceedings of the House. But have all those he has blessed come back to power? If the ones he praised earlier did not make a comeback, then what guarantee is there that this one will?