People of Uttar Pradesh have rejected the Samajwadi Party government’s claims of development, Union home minister Rajnath Singh told Economic Times in an interview. Excerpts:
Is the BJP losing steam in UP as some people say? How many seats do you expect the party to win in this election?
This impression is only among those who are sitting in armchairs at their homes. BJP will get an absolute majority in UP.
BJP’s opponents are charging the party with attempts to polarise the electorate…
This is completely baseless. I have never ever in my life practised politics on the basis of caste, sect or religion. BJP’s ideology doesn’t permit discrimination on the basis of caste, sect or religion. Everyone born in India is equal for us.
I am not going to talk about individuals, but what I told you is a fact…
What is the main agenda that the BJP is pushing in this election – development or polarisation?
We cannot even think of polarisation. A party thinking of running such a large state and country cannot even think of polarisation. We never believe in divisive politics, we always work for an inclusive politics. We dream of nation-building, we cannot achieve this by fomenting social divisions. All those born in India – whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Parsi – are brothers.
Why has the BJP resurrected the issue of Ram temple in its manifesto?
Ram temple issue is sub-judice. Wait for the verdict.
Which party is the BJP’s main opponent in UP?
There is no one party uniformly contesting against the BJP. At some places it is SPCongress alliance while at others it is BSP. But BJP is uniformly in contest in every assembly segment.
How do you see the SP-Congress slogan ‘UP ko yeh saath pasand hai (UP likes this togetherness)’?
The public is not going to get trapped by this alliance now. Janta ne dekh liya hai ki yeh donon kamzor partiyan satta ki hawas ko poora karne ke liye saath aayi hain (The public has seen that these two weak parties have come together only for their lust for power). They shook hands despite their ideological differences. They have forgone their political ideologies for this. Mulayam Singh has said so himself that his son has forsworn all principles of SP.
Akhilesh Yadav is seeking another term on the basis of his development works. Does that pose a challenge for the BJP?
You should see the public response to questions on their (SP’s) claims of development. People reject those claims. I have also presented official statistics to dispel this false impression. Individuals can tell a lie, but not those statistics on growth rate, agriculture growth, and law and order related crime statistics.
Don’t you agree with Akhilesh Yadav’s claims of development during his term?
Do you see the UP election as a referendum on demonetisation?
I do not believe that an election for Lok Sabha or assembly becomes a referendum on only one issue or topic. Elections always encompass many issues. Local issues also hold huge importance in assembly elections. Demonetisation, otherwise, has been universally welcomed. I get tremendous response in my rallies whenever I raise the issue of demonetisation in my rallies.
Why has the BJP changed tack in this election to promise populist measures such as loan waiver?
We are promising what we plan to do. We are not giving empty slogans. Personally, I speak about only those things that I can honour. Otherwise, I will not promise it. Credibility can never be compromised.
How would you respond to your opponents’ charge that the BJP is yet to fulfil its 2014 promise of ushering in ‘achche din (good days)’?
That is the case in Uttar Pradesh, they mean. Actually, un logon ne grahan laga rakha hai na (They have eclipsed UP). That is why they cannot see it. One cannot see reality in times of eclipse. Pradesh sarkar ne grahan laga diya hai (The state government has caused an eclipse).
Is the BJP worried over the recent image makeover of Akhilesh Yadav?
An image of a leader emerges on the basis of his work.
He has got rid of people who were not letting him work…
But he has given them their place back. And why did it take four and a half years? He should have tried it earlier. He expelled them only to take back and give tickets. Why did he remember to do so only when elections were three months away? People have lost faith in SP. I think Mulayam Singh’s initial reactions to Akhilesh were spontaneous and true. He said that he had opposed Congress always to build a strong party, but it has gone down the drain now.
Doesn’t a more assertive Akhilesh Yadav pose a bigger challenge to the BJP?
If he had such a great image, why did he need an alliance? This itself suggests that Samajwadi Party has weakened. Why should one worry about a weakened person?
How do you view BSP chief Mayawati’s repeated allegations that the RSS and BJP are anti-reservation?
Basically they (BSP) don’t have an issue. Reservation and communalism are two issues that our political opponents rake up in every election. Yeh ek jazbaati shoshan hai logon ka (These are attempts to exploit public sentiment).
Why did ticket distribution trigger such huge resentment within BJP?
It is such a large political party with such a huge cadre. Obviously, workers will have their desires. But those aspirants are now working. If some workers have been left out, their dignity and pride will be properly attended to.
Do you think the party made some mistakes in ticket distribution?
It is such a large state; there could have been errors in a few seats.
Despite BJP’s claims to being a party with a difference, it has given tickets to the kin of several leaders?
We are still a party with difference.
You campaigned for one such candidate in Kairana yourself…
Someone (Hukum Singh, Lok Sabha member from Kairana) has taken a decision not to contest elections in future.
Will you campaign in Noida for your son?
I do not need to campaign in Noida.
Why is that so?
He (Pankaj Singh) has been working for the party for the past 14-15 years. People know him already.
What if the party schedules your programme in Noida?
I will request the party not to do so.
Won’t that be an injustice to Pankaj Singh, UP BJP general secretary?
Where is the injustice? Our national president (Amit Shah) has already campaigned for him. Pankaj is also aware that I will not come (for his campaign). He knows that when his father cannot ask for his ticket, he will also not come for his campaign.
Does the BJP feel handicapped by not projecting a chief ministerial candidate in UP?
No. These are matters of strategy. Sometimes we have projected (a CM candidate) in some states, at other times we have not done so. In Haryana and Maharashtra, we did not project, but we projected in Assam. Not projecting is also part of the strategy. And, there are many faces in UP.
Given your whirlwind tours, are you also looking towards going back to Lucknow?
I am always assigned campaign tours, in every election.
Will Rajnath Singh become UP chief minister again?
This is a hypothetical question.
Will you consider it if the party asks you?
This is a hypothetical question.
The Jat farmers in western UP are reportedly annoyed with the BJP after casting their lot with the party in 2014…
The community has huge affection for me.
They are said to be upset because the BJP didn’t push for their reservation and has been lax in sugarcane payments as well…
There is reservation for them in UP.
You said in a speech that you didn’t initially plan to visit Pakistan for SAARC meeting. Why did you go then?
I had instructed to send the minister of state initially. I decided to go myself after officials informed me that protests were being organised against the participation of India’s home minister. Accepting challenges is in my nature. That’s why I decided to visit myself.
Do you think Pakistan will mend its ways?
It should mend its ways… Kabhi na kabhi toh sudhrega hi (It will have to mend its ways one day).
Source: Economic Times