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'We have become bigger than the Congress in UP'

March 11, 2017 23:38 IST

'My God, what do I say? It's shocking!'
'They had 27 MLAs in 2012. And now they have just seven.'
'My party (the Apna Dal-S) contested 11 seats and won in nine.'

Rahul Gandhi

IMAGE: The Congress party is in a very bad position and needs to work very hard, says Anupriya Patel. Photograph: Reuters

Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel represents the Mirzapur Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

Her tiny party, the Apna Dal (S), a BJP ally, caused an upset by winning more assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh than the Congress.

Patel discusses the election with Rediff.com's Savera R Someshwar.

What would you say are the five reasons behind the BJP's landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh?

The immense faith that the people have expressed in Prime Minister Modiji's leadership and the popularity of his schemes that were aimed at giving benefits to the poor and the most neglected sections of the society.

Of course, Amit Shahji's role as a master strategist.

There was a lot of disenchantment within the electorate in UP because of one-and-a-half decades of misrule that the state was subjected to.

The state was steeped in corruption, looting and goonda raj.

Another factor is the way Amit Shahji beautifully forged the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) alliance, which brought people from all sections of society together.

I think all these factors contributed to the result.

You referred to the prime minister's schemes. Which of these specifically worked in UP?

For example, people spoke about nationalisation of banks, but were the poor people really connected to the banking system?

The Jan Dhan Yojna is the biggest financial inclusion scheme that has come up in the country. Every poor person has a bank account now.

The Ujwala Yojna and the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojna are also very popular in UP.

These schemes gave the poor a feeling this government thinks about the person who is on struggling to hold onto the last rung of the ladder. That this government thinks about the people who are needy and deprived.

Many of the Opposition parties said the elections in these five states would be a referendum on demonetisation. They have got a befitting reply.

India has supported demonetisation. The people across these five states have supported demonetisation and supported the BJP and its alliance partners.

Anupriya PatelWhy did demonetisation not make an impact in UP?

(Anupriya Patel, left) The election result clearly shows that the public at large is happy with the decision that has been taken by the NDA government.

That means the hue and cry was being made only by these political leaders.

The general public has understood that the government has taken this very bold step for their benefit.

While I was campaigning, I have spoken to the poor and the marginalised people and they said they had no problem with notebandi.

It was the rich people, they told me, who were having a problem. 'Modiji jo kiye achcha kiye (Modi has taken a good decision),' they told me.

It was the political leadership of the country that stood against it and howled in Parliament and did not let it function.

At the grassroots level, people felt Modiji is doing something nobody ever thought of.

They like the fact that he dares to do things; they like the fact that the country has a strong prime minister.

Do you feel the people voted for Modi or the BJP?

I told you the factors that have played a role.

Right now Modiji has become a brand which is most trusted, which is popular...

So it is Brand Modi, not Brand BJP?

Brand Modi has become very important (laughs). The other factors have, I think, been undermined (laughs again).

Since Independence, have you seen who is so popular and is ruling the hearts of people? I don't think so.

This means the prime minister has now become bigger than his party. It has become a one man show.

I wouldn't say that technically.

I would just say that Brand Modi is the infallible and most popular brand of leadership in India, which symbolises a lot of concern for the poor, the oppressed, the deprived and the neglected sections of society.

Do you have any thoughts about who the next chief minister should be?

I can't really comment on a name. I am a small ally in the NDA.

We are all going to sit together and deliberate and one name will be finalised.

Obviously, the decision of the CM will be taken under the leadership of Narendra Modiji only.

Whoever it is, this decision will be taken in the best interest of the state.

Let us talk about the Congress -- what does the party need to do now?

My God, what do I say? It's shocking!

They had 27 MLAs in 2012. And now they have just seven.

My party (the Apna Dal-S) contested 11 seats and won in nine. We have become bigger than the Congress in UP.

The Congress need to introspect.

Do you think they now need to let go of Rahul Gandhi?

I won't comment on another party's leadership; it's not appropriate.

But they are in a very bad position. They have to understand why this happened and work very, very hard to remove the loopholes.

See, this is politics and this is democracy.

People and parties keep going up and down, so let us not comment on the leaders individually.

But yes, the Congress definitely needs to introspect.

What about Akhilesh Yadav and the Samajwadi Party? They got just 47 seats and a little under 22 per cent of the vote share.

Honestly speaking, people had a lot of faith in Akhileshji.

They were very optimistic and had a lot of expectations because they thought he was a young CM and had studied in Australia. They thought he had a new vision.

But in the last five years, there was nothing that the young chief minister contributed to the state.

The same kind of looting that went on. The same goons and mafia controlled the system...

The people were frustrated with the fact that, despite having a new and young chief minister, they still had to face the goons and the mafia and the thana-chowki ka bhrashtachar (the corruption in the police force), the looting that went on in the state.

Akhilesh Yadav

IMAGE: People were frustrated with Akhilesh Yadav and the corruption in Uttar Pradesh, says Anupriya Patel. Photograph: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

Do you feel his hands were tied because of parental pressure?

Look, he completed five years. He allowed everyone to do what they wanted to and then, when it was time for the election, you start all this drama and take over the party and say, 'Oh, I am a clean guy and I have thrown out all the goons and mafia and criminals from my party.'

If he felt that he was not being allowed to work, he could have acted in the same manner at the beginning of his tenure. Or in the middle of his tenure. He didn't do that.

What he did just before the elections is not really convincing.

You feel it is too little, too late?

Yes.

It means you supported all this and when, after five years, you realise that it didn't work, you changed your stand.

This kind of hypocrisy does not work here. People in UP are politically very mature.

You must remember this is a very exceptional state. It has given the maximum number of prime ministers to the country.

BJP celebrates in Uttar Pradesh

IMAGE: BJP supporters celebrate in Delhi after the initial poll results. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

What about Mayawati's claim that the electronic voting machines were tampered with? She has a marginally higher percent of the vote share as compared to the Samajwadi Party, but just 19 votes.

Look, what she is saying about going back to using ballot papers and discarding the EVMs is very foolish.

The problem is that she has been the chief minister of a state like Uttar Pradesh for a very long time; her party has earlier had huge mandates and what she has got today is unbelievable. It has come as a huge shock to her.

We have to understand what she going through mentally. She is quite perturbed; her party has performed really badly and it is a huge shock for her.

When people are in such a state, they say stupid, illogical things.

If she is claiming the EVMs were not accepting votes for any party other than the BJP, logically speaking, the BSP should not have got even 19 seats.

The Samajwadi Party and Congress should not have got 54 seats (SP 47; Congress 7).

For that matter, even the Apna Dal should not have got nine seats.

How is this result going to impact India's political future?

This kind of mandate comes with a huge responsibility.

A big mandate means big aspirations and bigger expectations. Obviously, this means even bigger responsibilities.

We have to work more hard to satisfy the aspirations of the electorate in UP.

It is said that UP governs the direction of national politics.

So, definitely, for 2019, I think this a good semi-final that we have played.

What are the three things that urgently need to be tackled in the state by the new government?

There is a crying need for basic infrastructure -- roads, electricity, water -- which is non-existent in UP at the moment.

We need employment for the youth. There is no employment in the state at all.

The third is agriculture; there is a lot that needs to be done.

Anupriya Patel's photograph: Kind courtesy Anupriya Patel/Facebook

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Savera R Someshwar / Rediff.com