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November 19, 1997


The Rediff Interview/ Kalyan Singh

'We were branded as a party which played, but could never score a goal. Now we have proved everybody wrong'

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Uttar Pradesh Chief MinisterKalyan Singh is on a high.

But for his shrewd political master strokes, the BJP could never have retained power in the state. In the bargain, of course, Kalyan Singh has turned into a different man -- having finally practiced the tricks of the trade he had shunned throughout his 30-year-long political career. And from one who was a stickler for moral and ethical values, he does not today mind being compared to his adversaries.

Interestingly, even as his act of allocating ministerial berths to each of the 36 defectors from the Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress and Janata Dal in his 93-member cabinet came under fire, an undaunted Kalyan Singh feels there is no harm done to the BJP. "Whosoever thinks the party's image has suffered a beating on this account is mistaken," he told Sharat Pradhan in an exclusive interview.

Do you consider yourself a victor?

Well, it is a big win for our party.

But the general feeling is all that you had earned by proving your majority through your well calculated and shrewd political moves was washed away in one stroke when you not only inducted each and every defector from the BSP, Congress and Janata Dal in your ministry but also gave berths to those with criminal antecedents, notorious gangsters?

Recent political developments in UP have only boosted the BJP's image. We were branded as a party which played, but could never score a goal. But now we have proved everybody wrong. And let me tell you, there is no criminal in my cabinet. Not only that, I would like to make it clear that if any minister is found indulging in criminal activities, he will be shown the way out.

But what about their past criminal history?

First of all, mere registration of cases against someone does not make him a criminal. And then (laughs) why talk about the past when a long future lies ahead?

You have been charged with engineering large-scale defections through handsome allurements which does not go with the BJP's professed style of politics.

I did not give any allurements to anyone. If they have expressed faith in the BJP it is because they have had a change of heart. When they (the Opposition parties) were busy ganging up against the BJP to ensure that we never came to power, it was fairplay, but when we beat them at their own game this time, our act is termed as unethical.

Do you foresee a replay of the Lucknow formula in New Delhi?

In fact, that is what worries the Opposition more than anything else. And I do not rule out the possibility of similar success in New Delhi. Just wait till the Jain Commission report comes out with startling disclosures about the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

It is bound to bring out many skeletons from the cupboard that will spell doom for the Congress thereby leaving the 14-party khichri United Front government in dire straits. You see (adds jubilantly) that is when a large chunk of MPs will explore possibilities of forming an alternative government rather than face a mid-term poll. And who but the BJP would be in a position to fit the bill?

And what future do you see for your party if the nation were to go in for a mid-term poll?

I can say with confidence that the BJP and its allies will comfortably ride to power at the Centre.

Your current tirade against your predecessor Mayawati is being construed as a witch hunt, to divert the attention of the masses from what you have done to your ministry.

This is a baseless charge. I get extremely agitated when I come across misuse of public money; you see corruption is at the root of all our ills. I am firmly of the view that as long as there is corruption, there can be no development. Until there is development, there can be no employment -- and without employment there will be no source of livelihood; after all, mere slogans will not remove illiteracy or poverty that is the bane of society here.

Don't you think your witch hunt could propel her into eventually emerging as a heroine in the same manner as Indira Gandhi did during the Janata Party era?

For heaven's sake, please do not compare Mayawati to Indiraji. The blatant manner in which Mayawati has indulged in corruption and taken it to unprecedented heights is bound to take her the Jayalalitha way. You will see Mayawati meeting the same fate as Jayalalitha.

How can you absolve BJP ministers of the collective responsibility for Mayawati's acts of commission? How can you say they were not sharing the booty?

Mayawati's style of functioning was such that none except her and her alone could be responsible for her acts. When she could get the minutes of a cabinet meeting fudged, then she is capable of anything. I am aware of a specific instance -- when the cabinet approved appointing the chief minister as the sole permanent trustee of the trust created for the maintenance of the Ambedkar Sthal and Udyan, Mayawati inserted her name in place of 'chief minister', to ensure her continuance as the sole trustee whether she was in or out of power.

What about tackling corruption at other levels of the state administration?

I am of the view that corruption travels from the top and that is why I have begun my war against this malady from there.

What about the rampant corruption at the highest levels of the state bureaucracy? This has provoked introspection among a section of the IAS Officers Association who identified the 'three most corrupt' officers in UP and sought stringent action against them.

I have already taken action against some senior officials including those from this elite service as well as from the IPS and Provincial Civil Service. Some of them have been suspended while criminal cases have been registered against others.

As for the IAS Officers Association, it is not possible for me to initiate punitive action against anyone simply on the basis of the association's accusations. If they come up with a specific complaint, I shall have the matter investigated and ensure prompt punitive action wherever necessary.

But what about bureaucrats whose known and visible assets are valued at between Rs 1 billion and Rs 3 billion, bureaucrats who have so far escaped your anti-corruption net?

I have already directed all agencies to expedite all cases pending with them. You will see that concrete action will follow.

It is suspected that you and your party shield some 'most corrupt' officials because of their 'money power' and on account of their proximity to some BJP leaders?

Let me make it clear that anyone found indulging in corrupt practices will not be spared under any circumstances -- no matter what position s/he occupies or the connections they might have.

What are your other priorities?

To provide political stability to the state, to provide a stable government, to restore law and order, and to ensure speedy development of the state through better delivery systems and by enforcing strict financial discipline. Let me clarify that these are not merely ours, but the people's priorities too.

People are sick of corrupt, inefficient and insensitive regimes. They want a respite which we are in a position to do.

What measures do you propose to achieve your goals?

With a view to fulfilling my long cherished dream of Janata ki sarkar janata ke dwar (people's government at the people's doorstep), I have not only ordered but ensured commencement of a new system of fortnightly visits to tehsils by district magistrates and other senior officials. These officials have been asked to hold an open house with the local people whose problems have to be sorted out at these fora within a time-frame.

Meanwhile, I am holding, what I prefer to call Janata Darshan -- and not 'Durbar' as referred to by my predecessors -- twice a week, where I personally listen to at least 1,500 to 2,000 people each day. I have created a cell in my secretariat to monitor the implementation of orders issued on each application received at this Janata Darshan -- that is my concept of a responsive administration.

In view of a very common complaint that policemen do not respond to complaints of ordinary people, I have got my message percolated down to the lowest level that every crime must be registered. Since this had become a general tendency in order to keep the official crime graphs low, I have made it clear that mere crime figures will not determine the crime level in a particular area; it will depend on how secure the people actually feel.

What about development?

Among the first few things I have ordered are construction of roads to link numerous unconnected villages besides improving kutcha roads alongside the state's irrigation canals. Within the next few months, you will also find all major highways and thoroughfares free of potholes and ditches. Another project aimed at providing large-scale employment to women will set up mini-co-operative dairies throughout the state.

Are you hopeful of building a congenial industrial climate to attract major investments in the state?

I am aware that industrialists have been wary of investing in Uttar Pradesh largely on account of poor availability of power, poor law and order and political instability. I wish to assure them that very soon they will witness a drastic change in each of these three areas.

Efforts are on a war footing to overhaul our power generation and distribution systems. I have already said enough about law and order. And where political stability is concerned. I would like to assure them that there is nothing that can now stop this government from functioning smoothly for four years, until its term actually comes to an end.

The Rediff Interview

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