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Exclusive Interview/Mulayam Singh Yadav

Last updated on: January 20, 2012 21:22 IST

'Mayawati only believes in the policy of minting money'

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Mulayam Singh Yadav, the old political warhorse, in an exclusive interview with Sharat Pradhan and Sheela Bhatt.

Mulayam Singh Yadav turned 72 last November, recovered from an undisclosed serious illness, and now expects a fresh lease of political life as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

His old political adversary, Uttar Pradesh's current Chief Minister Mayawati, confronts the anti-incumbency factor in the coming state assembly election, and may well see her dream of ruling the state for another five years crumble at the hustings.

Mayawati -- who has the rare distinction of ruling unmanageable UP for nearly five uninterrupted years, the first time any chief minister has done so in more than 40 years -- is increasingly seen as a leader who misused this power and ruled with an iron fist from her high-walled palatial home while her Bahujan Samaj Party leaders and bureaucrats run amuck.

Mulayam Singh founded and nurtured the Samajwadi Party.

During the evolution of India's regional parties, Yadav -- an early adherent of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia's Socialist credo -- was one of the leaders who changed the one-party tenor of national politics.

The Samajwadi Party is today a strong alternative to the BSP and its grassroots presence in villages across a huge state like Uttar Pradesh, a lesson to the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, which flounder in UP due to the lack of a pan-UP party infrastructure.

The so-called national parties are desperate to win anti-Mayawati votes, but neither the BJP nor the Congress have the kind of presence Yadav's party enjoys in the state.

Mulayam Singh, Union defence minister in the H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral Cabinets, and his elder son Akhilesh Yadav address more than a dozen political rallies each day. Crowds throng to these rallies to listen to their promises of free water, education and medicine if the Samajwadi Party is voted back to power.

The Samajwadi Party is banking on votes from the Muslim community and trying to ensure that the Congress does not succeed in its efforts to woo the community.

In an exclusive interview with Sharat Pradhan and Sheela Bhatt at his sprawling bungalow on Vikramditya Marg, Lucknow, Mulayam Singh Yadav discussed the pitfalls of caste-based politics and his son's political evolution.

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Image: Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Singh Yadav
Photographs: Reuters

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'I don't think it will be a mili-juli sarkar'

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Do you think this election is being essentially fought on the basis of caste?

Political parties do try to peddle casteism, but their efforts fail.

I have seen many leaders banking on their caste, but they have been rejected by voters.

But we have seen that you get Yadav votes and Mayawati gets Dalit votes.

If the BSP had got all the Dalit votes, then how did the SP get 10 Lok Sabha seats out of the 17 reserved constituencies for scheduled caste candidates in the (2009) Lok Sabha polls?

You have fought many elections. What is new about this one?

I have fought 16 elections. I don't think it will be a mili-juli sarkar (coalition government). We will get a clear mandate in our favour.

The Congress has signalled that there could be a post-poll alliance with the SP...

How can I comment on what other parties are saying?

In case a situation arises where you need support from the Congress...

I don't foresee such a situation.

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Image: Mulayam Singh Yadav at the launch of his party's 2012 campaign
Photographs: Reuters

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'Akhilesh has to get fully involved'

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It is not a question of you needing them alone. The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) also requires your support. You have been supporting them from outside for the last few years.

I have always clarified in the House that if the UPA is pitted against the BJP, then we will support the UPA. I have made it clear.

You have been observing the mood of the people. What is your reading?

You should come with me, see it for yourself, then you will believe it. Neither do we provide buses to collect people nor do we get trucks to transport them. Yet, our meetings draw huge crowds.

Others use money, trucks etc, to collect people. The crowds that we get is not dull or dead, it is full of passion.

How do you find your son Akhilesh's performance in the campaign?

Since he has entered politics, he has to get fully involved in the campaign.

What are the finer tips of campaigning that you have shared with him?

You should know better. The media knows it. People are watching him.

As far as I am concerned, I am campaigning along with Azamsaab (Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan), separately.

Will you adopt the Punjab model (appoint Akhilesh Yadav as the deputy chief minister)?

That will be decided by the elected MLAs.

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Image: Akhilesh Yadav, clearly Mulayam Singh's political heir
Photographs: Reuters

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'Muslims were confused, some voted for Congress'

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Your personality is so overwhelming that they will leave the decision to you.

Our party is a democratic, socialist, one and it will take the decision. We have to respect the democratic system within the party.

How do you feel when you see your son growing as a politician?

The credit of inducting Akhilesh Yadav goes entirely to Jnaneshwar Mishra. Ask the people sitting here. (points to Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan), Neither Shivpal nor Ramgopal (Mulayam Singh's younger brothers) were in favour of his entry into politics.

When the by-election in Kannauj took place, people demanded that I field Akhilesh. It was shortly after his marriage and he was away in Dehradun, but I called him back so that he could take the plunge into electoral politics.

Is the Congress marching ahead in UP?

That is true. In the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress exceeded its own expectations. Muslims were confused and some of them voted for the Congress.

How do you see the poll mood changing after Priyanka Gandhi started campaigning?

She has been campaigning since 1999. She has campaigned in the last four or five elections. It is the Congress party's decision to field her.

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Image: Mulayam Singh, in action
Photographs: Reuters

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'Congress has left its policy far behind'

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Will Priyanka's campaign have an impact?

Her impact is not more than that of (the late prime minister) Indira Gandhi.

Indiraji was a powerful person and a very big leader. She had tremendous impact on people. She was an impressive lady. She had a mystical quality.

I have seen poor people without footwear running to get a glimpse of her. I watched her closely. There is a lot of difference (between Indira Gandhi and her grand-daughter Priyanka Gandhi).

At this juncture, Azam Khan adds, "Her entry shows that Rahul Gandhi's charm has faded." Mulayam Singh laughs.

Do you also believe that Rahul's magic has waned?

He (Azam Khan) is saying so.

Do you agree with him?

Don't take Azam Khan lightly. He is not an ordinary man. There is no difference between me and Azam Khan.

You have been in politics for many years. Do you find it changing radically?

Earlier, people used to vote for us on the basis of the party's policies. All parties have deviated from their basic policies. The Congress has left its policy far behind.

We still maintain we want equality and economic development. We want social equality. We have not deviated from our aims.

Do you think Mayawati has also deviated from the fundamental beliefs of her party?

She only believes in the policy of minting money.

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Image: Priyanka Gandhi
Photographs: Reuters

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'SP is not a regional party'

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You lost the 2007 assembly election because your party was seen as the party that provided patronage to criminals.

Mayawati promised that she would restore law and order. Have you taken any measures to improve the image of the Samajwadi Party?

It was a false campaign; all the political parties had joined hands to discredit us. Look at the situation today.

The newspapers are full of reports about murders and rapes. When we come to power, goondas will not be found in the state. They will either leave the state or they will go to jail.

There is false propaganda against our party. There are many reasons behind it.

If you meet me without the tape recorder, I will share a few things in an off-the-record conversation.

Even though the Samajwadi Party is a regional party, you have maintained a stronger infrastructure as compared to the Congress or the BJP. How did you manage that?

The SP is not a regional party. Uttar Pradesh is such a big state that no party, which is powerful here, can be called a regional party.

The Communist parties win a few seats, but they are termed as national parties. We get so many seats, but we are still termed a regional party.

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Image: A rally in support of UP Chief Minister Mayawati
Photographs: Reuters

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'Muslims were sulking. They didn't go out to vote'

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What will be the thrust of your main counter-offensive against Mayawati?

We don't need any strategy. We have to appeal to the Dalits. They are joining us. They (the BSP) don't have more than 10 per cent Dalits.

We have members of the Katheria caste, also known as Dhanuk, in Parliament. Even members of the Dhobi and Pasi communities are with us.

This time, everyone is eying Muslim votes, be it your party or the Congress. The Muslims have deserted you.

No. Muslims were sulking. They didn't go out to vote.

In modern times, your party is seeking Muslim votes on the basis of conservative ideas.

I have a comrade like Azam. Who is a bigger leader of Muslims in UP?

By merely becoming a minister in the government, one doesn't become a big leader (an obvious reference to Naseemudin Siddiqui, a minister in Mayawati's cabinet).

I am not playing Muslim politics.

My heart bleeds for Muslims because their condition is worse than that of Dalits.

The Sachar Committee has admitted this. The condition of Muslims is pathetic.

Every handicraft industry in UP comprises Muslims. Who is weaving? Who is doing the embroidery? Who is stitching?

Almost 80 per cent of handicraft work is in the hands of Muslims. They work very hard.

Look at the chikan embroidery work of Lucknow. It is done by Muslim men, women and children. Without any assistance from the government, they have helped the nation.

Will this be your last election?

Do I look like I will not be around for the next election? Let us have gud ki chai (tea with jaggery).

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Image: Mulayam Singh Yadav with Jaya Bachchan
Photographs: Reuters

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