‘I hope all sections of society vote for development. Much work has been done by the Modi government for the poor, the farmers and such issues are above caste.’
Ghazipur: The Ghazipur seat in eastern Uttar Pradesh goes for election on 19 May, the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections. The sitting MP of the seat is Manoj Sinha, Minister of State for Railways and Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Communications. The Mahagathbandhan (MGB) candidate against him is Afzal Ansari of the Bahujan Samaj Party. A “strongman”, Ansari had won the Ghazipur seat against Sinha in 2004 as a candidate of the Samajwadi Party. The caste equations are seemingly skewed against Sinha this time, with Yadavs, Muslims and Dalits, purported to be the MGB vote-bank, comprising around 50% of the voting population of Ghazipur. But Sinha says he is confident of winning. He talked to this newspaper at his residence in Ghazipur. Excerpts:
Q: I am hearing that Ghazipur is a tight contest. What is your opinion on that?
A: I don’t think there is a tough contest; people are going to vote for politics of performance and development.
Q: How important is the caste factor here?
A: It’s a misconception. I don’t think that it will materialise in the ground.
Q: What gives you that confidence?
A: It is because I am working in the field and I am going amongst the people. I am aware of their feelings. What I feel is, every section of society is voting for me and they want that politics of fear and politics of caste must be defeated here.
Q: When you say politics of fear, are you specifically talking about your opponent?
A: Of course.
Q: But you already had one electoral encounter with him and it didn’t go in your favour. How are circumstances different this time?
A: From then to now there has been a lot of change. He contested in 2004 and won the election. At that time there was a government that was fully supporting him. All the criminals of UP and Eastern UP were here. They murdered some of our workers. Police and ministers, some of them, were openly supporting them. That was the main reason. From 2004 to 2019 much has changed, a lot of water has flown down the Ganges. In the last five years, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, we have done a lot of things in such a small place. Now this place is connected to every big city in India. Two four-lane roads are being constructed, a six-lane Purvanchal Expressway is being constructed, a medical college is under construction, a new rail line, from Tarighat-Ghazipu to Mau is under construction. People have seen what development is under this government.
Q: There are areas where SP-BSP have a stronghold. What is your assessment of those areas?
A: Of course, SP has a stronghold in Ghazipur—in the last Assembly elections we won three (Assembly) seats in my Parliamentary constituency and two were won by Samajwadi Party, but BSP was nowhere. Politics does not run on arithmetic, politics is about chemistry and the chemistry is in favour of BJP. I hope all sections of society are going to vote for development. Much work has been done by the Modi government for the poor, the farmers and such issues are above caste.
Q: How important is the issue of nationalism?
A: Nationalism is a very important issue. People are feeling proud that under Modi’s leadership the nation is secure. He is a leader who can counter terrorism, he can keep the country safe—particularly after Pulwama, what happened in Balakot is inspiring the youth to rise above the issues of caste and creed.
Q: When you are campaigning, are you going to areas that are a stronghold of Mr Ansari?
A: There is no hold of Mr Ansari. There are areas that are strongholds of the Samajwadi Party. But I am going everywhere.
Q: Will the BSP-SP alliance work at the ground level?
A: No, I don’t think the alliance is going to work.
Q: What gives you that confidence? Is it because of the SP-BSP alliance’s inherent problems?
A: I don’t think people are going to vote on caste lines this time. I have am amongst the people since last one month. I have done at least 360 big and small meetings and I can say that the response is tremendous. I have never seen such a response for me or for BJP.
Q: What would you rate as your biggest achievement for this constituency?
A: See, I planned in a phase-wise manner. Firstly, I tried to create good infrastructure. Connectivity was the main focus. And now this small city, this small district is connected with every big city of India. Good highways are there. Major district roads are mostly in good condition. Ghazipur is a part of the first waterway from Haldia to Varanasi. There is an airstrip and under Udaan Yojana, Government of India has sanctioned for it to become an airport and Spicejet is going to start its operations within three-four months. There’ll be flights from Ghazipur to Delhi and Kolkata. Apart from this a medical college has been sanctioned. A sports complex of international standard has been constructed in Ghazipur. Then there is the new rail line, Tarighat-Ghazipur-Mau. It has been the demand of our people since 1962, with one of Ghazipur’s former MPs, Vishwanath Singh Gahmari raising this issue of underdevelopment of Eastern UP when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister. Since then people have been aspiring for this rail line. This will create an alternate route for Kolkata and Delhi…
We have established a perishable cargo centre at Ghazipur Ghat and chillies and green peas are being exported from this region to Dubai. I have constructed 100 model primary schools in this constituency. You can compare them with any good school in the country. In government high schools and colleges I have started smart classes, e-education. Where girls are taking education, 75 such schools and colleges have been provided with sanitary pad vending machines. All of this has created a lot of enthusiasm, among the people and the youth.