We are confident of a positive March 6: Akhilesh Yadav
Two weeks before the Samajwadi Party's awesome victory in the UP assembly election, Akhilesh Yadav spelled out his priorities in an exclusive interview to Rediff.com
Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh'S 39-year-old son, directed his party's campaign for the Uttar Pradesh assembly election.
The three-time Member of Parliament from Kannauj is no stranger to electoral politics, but elections 2012 is at another level altogether.
With the Congress's Rahul Gandhi and the Rashtriya Lok Dal's Jayant Chowdhury, Yadav forms the troika of youth power in the state elections but he leaves no one in doubt that he is the chosen one when he asks, "Response kisko zyada milta hai? (who gets the most repsonse?)"
In a late night interview with Sharat Pradhan and Saisuresh Sivaswamy in his father's bungalow in Lucknow, conducted in both English and Hindi, the Samajwadi Party president unspooled on his politics and elections.
High percentage of voter turnout in Uttar Pradesh in the first three phases of polling -- are you nervous about it? What is your takeaway?
It's good, because when there is high voter turnout what we have seen is that it is always against the government. Last time too it was the same thing when the people voted out the Samajwadi Party government, so hopefully what we are seeing this time, the percentage of people who are voting more this time are young people.
I expect that this government will be voted out by the young voters. I am very sure about it.
The kind of voting, the kind of turnout this time, even in places where the last time round we saw very low voting, is very good. So what I see is that all the vote that is coming is against the government.
The people are fed up by this government because of misuse -- they spent public money on erecting statues, marbles, and a lot many things. People are against this government, they want to throw it out.
What is your party's expectations on March 6, day of counting
We have been in the field for a long time, I have been going around in the rath (chariot), I held a lot of meetings even before the elections were announced, so what I see is that hopefully this time we will touch the majority mark, probably win around 207 seats or a little more than that.
On your own?
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Image: Akhilesh Yadav, the man of the hour!
'I think we will touch the majority mark'
What gives you this confidence, especially when almost everyone believes it will be a hung assembly this time?
I have also read about this in the media, on television too people are saying that it will be a coalition government this time in UP. But I have my own doubts about it.
If you remember the last time too people were saying the same thing, but the Bahujan Samaj Party got a majority on its own.
Hopefully this time, judging by the response we have been getting from the people, I have travelled almost through 250 constituencies and by the end of the elections mein sab touch kar loonga (I will touch all 403 constituencies), we will do well.
And in the 250 seats, the response I am seeing is tremendous. People are so fed up of this government. I will even say that they want to vote for the Samajwadi Party. I think we will touch the majority mark.
What exactly are the people telling you for you to believe this?
Like, when we go to the rural side of UP, they complain about not getting fertilisers, they complain that they didn't minimum support price for their crops, this government looted money on paddy, people were suffering from floods and the government didn't help them, there is no housing for them, no medical facilities, they don't have any clear policy on how to remove poverty.
All these issues combined, then there is corruption which is the main issue, they are suffering from, you know, the thana (police station)... where the sepoy is not registering a complaint without taking money, they are not investigating any offence, they expect something in return and don't do any work till then, yeh jo cultural change kiya hai, kaam karne ka tarika badal gaya hai, (the have made a cultural change in the way they work) MLAs are disappointing, unke cadre me (their cadres) they looted money, they are on the ground par unke paas kuch nahi hai (they have nothing), for tender and other things they stick to thana or tehsil.
Kya, yeh jo uparwale paisa kama rahe hain toh small workers hain, woh bhi thoda thoda paisa kama rahe hain thane se, tehsil se, sadak se, bijli se (Those on top are making money. The small workers make little amounts from the police, tehsil, road and electricity works).
Toh, overall, farmers inse naraaz hain (are angry with them) because they didn't get a good price for their crop, they didn't get fertilisers when they needed it, and these people had taken money on that, har jagah mehengai badh gay hai(price-rise is everywhere), they had to pay twice the money for it, yeh sab narazgi humlog janata mein bolte hain (the people have expressed this anger).
Aur phir bolte hain ki aap ke paise in logone pathar ki murtiyon pe laga diya. (They say all the money these people have put in statues.)
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Image: Akhilesh Yadav at a campaign rally
'We will see that the guilty are brought to book'
If you do form the next government, how will you handle the Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the National Rural Health Mission scam?
We will strengthen the probe, a lot of people are involved in the scam and they have got away so far.
We will take the matter to its logical end, and see that all the guilty are brought to book.
And the huge parks and statues erected in Lucknow?
We will put these huge spaces to better use by converting them into hospitals and educational institutions, but without pulling down the statues.
Do you plan to overturn any of Chief Minister Mayawati's decisions if you are in office?
On this, we will take a decision on merit and not out of vengeance.
What reason do you attribute for Mayawati losing so much ground in her time in office?
Because she didn't work, she didn't come out from the chief minister's official residence, she never met the people.
Democracy is not like, you know, closing doors for everyone, democracy is like being more open to the people, that's democracy.
In democracy people vote for you, aap unse ahi miloge jo vote kar rahe hain (you will not meet people who vote for you), why will they vote for you? She never held any good meeting with MLAs or MLCs, who couldn't meet her, MPs couldn't meet her, she was only busy meeting people who were busy paying something for the job or paying for things like tenders etc, she was happy meeting them.
Logon se nahi milna (She does not want to meet the people).
Then she started visiting villages, wahan par gaon mein curfew laga diya (they imposed a curfew in the village), she went to the hospital, she made police constables lie down on the bed instead of patients, taki unse jab poochen mukhya mantri (so when the CM asks them) they said, 'No sab ilaaj sahi hai, dawai mil rahi hai, (treatment is fine, we are getting medicines) all that sort of thing happened here, that has given a bad name to this government.
In democracy you should be more open, you should know, you should understand even your critics, you should accept ki arre bhai, koi ghalat keh raha hai toh (if someone if saying the wrong thing) listen to the person. Yeh jo narazgi hai democracy ki aap mile nahi hain, meeting organise nahi ki, aapne kuch deliver nahi kiya, toh yeh sab ikkattha ho gaya hai sarkar ke khilaf (there is anger that in a democracy you are not meeting the people, you did not deliver anything, so all these things have accumulated into anger against the government).
Why do you think your father lost the elections in 2007?
That was because we were not expecting that the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) will vote for the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party). Last time why we lost was that the BJP was finished in UP, it could not gain any votes in that election and in the end when we realised that the BJP is voting for the BSP, it was too late.
But this time we are careful. We know we may have trouble from the BJP, we might have trouble from the Congress, we know that the BSP is the main rival, so we are keeping everything planned or sab cheezen dekh kar ke kaise kya hoga, us pe kaam kar rahe hain (we are looking at all things and then working on it).
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Image: Akhilesh Yadav, in action
'UP badly needs infrastructure'
You did not mention the SP's goonda raj of last time which is believed to have gone against you.
If you come to power now, will there be a repeat of that?
Yes, yes, there were incidents where we were not able to, you know, answer them. Kya hai ki kuch sawaal aise ho gaye hain ki humen logon ko jawaab dena padgaya. (Some issues came up that we had to give an answer to the people).
Lekin is baar humne surety di hai ki sarkar banegi toh (we have given a surety that if this time our government comes), there will be no misuse of law and order.
Aur hamare cadre ki log bhi honge, bahut sakhti se unse niptenge. Matlab unko bhi kanoon todne nahi denge. Or yeh assurance hum log de rahe hain har public meeting mein, ki kanoon vyavastha law and order mein koi bhi mana rahega toh uske khilaf karvai hogi jo bhi law and order ko disturb karega (Even if it is our partymen, we will deal with them sternly. We will not let them break the law. We are saying this at all our public meetings that we take legal action against people disturbing law and order).
If the Samajwadi Party forms the next government, on its own as you say or in alliance with other parties, what will your priorities be?
UP badly needs infrastructure, good roads, more power, good irrigation facilities, educational institutions should come to UP more so we can provide cheaper education here, health schemes should be implemented and hospital should be good.
Basically, UP needs a lot of attention on infrastructure.
Since UP is a big state every district has got its own economy, suppose we talk about Lucknow there is chikan work, zari work, zardozi, but the government is not supporting it.
The government is not providing bunkars (weavers) the kind of support they should have given, then there's the carpet industry in Badhoi but the government is not able to announce a good policy for them, Kanpur mein tanneries badi padi hain (there are plenty of tanneries in Kanpur), Agra mein leather work ka hai (there is leather work in Agra), Ferozabad, you see glass work is there, in Moradabad brass work is there, that is how UP is.
If UP is big, it has got its own economy in different ways. Agar hum log ek ek district ka economy ko improve karte hain, infrastructure provide karden, (If we improve the economy of each district and provide infrastructure) I think we will become the number one state in the country.
In a lot of developed states, most notably in Maharashtra, there is a lot of negative sentiment expressed about people from UP and Bihar who are blamed for pulling them down.
As a person who can decide UP's fate, how do you react to such sentiments?
I think you are seeing a change in Bihar, where the present government is doing well. People are appreciating it, the press is appreciating it. So when things can move in a good way in Bihar, why can't it happen in UP?
So if there is a good government, I totally agree that even UP will do much better than how Bihar is doing, or any other state for that matter. Because UP has the resources, it has tremendous potential, it is a state of 22 crore (220 million) people.
You talk about religious tourism -- it is there, you talk about international tourism -- people come here from everywhere, the kind of people who visit the Taj Mahal kahi nahi itne log jaate hain(nowhere do so many people go). There is a lot of scope in tourism.
Kis state ke paas Benares hai, kis state ke paas Taj Mahal hai, kis state ke paas Brindavan hai, toh itna kuch hai is state ke paas? (which state has Benares, the Taj Mahal, Brindavan? UP has all this).
Even in agriculture you look at sugarcane, this industry can just improve like anything, Maharashtra ko hum peeche chhod sakte hain (we can overtake Maharashtra), although it is number one in sugar production, that was a time when UP was number one, when we were in power, we had given a chance to the sugar industry to set up more mills here, they did that.
We formed a policy in such a way that they got good benefit, finally if there is a mill, farmers will benefit. When we were in power we set up 29 sugar mills!
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Image: Akhilesh Yadav on the campaign trail
'UP is a big state, it can do wonders'
Doesn't the running down of your state by others hurt you?
UP has been given a bad name, if Bihar can improve, why can't UP? If UP's infrastructure improves, if the industrial towns improve or even if we support only Kanpur, it can boost any economy. Only Kanpur has got such potential.
In the whole of India the best tanneries are in Kanpur, at one time it was called the Manchester of India, and look at Kanpur, what has happened to it.
Image: Akhilesh Yadav at yet another rally site
'I got married, and a week later, was told I would have to fight elections'
Your father first made a statement about the Congress supporting the SP and in double quick time clarified on it.
What kind of backroom drama went on between his statement and the clarification?
He only meant the central government in his statement, not for the state. He said we are supporting the Congress to keep away the BJP, and you know how it is, the press played it wrong, so he had to say it again later.
So he called a press conference and cleared what he said, He said in UP we don't need the Congress, we may get a majority. We are working hard to get a majority.
If we go below the majority mark the Congress will kill us. The Congress will not support us.
It could make sense actually. You support the Congress at the Centre and they support you here in Lucknow.
That's there. But who knows about the Congress, whether it will support or not. For that from day one we have been trying for a majority, so that we don't need anyone.
What if you need it?
I don't think so. I don't even want to assume that scenario because I worked hard and the party worked hard on the campaign.
You were not always inclined towards politics, you studied abroad, so what was the sudden a-ha moment when you decided politics was going to be your future?
After my wedding I had to come into politics leaving many other things behind. Now that I have come into politics there is no other option, I cannot go and do business now.
Since I have come into this profession, I will work with passion. If you don't work with passion in an election, you cannot win it. So I left everything and just went on my rath, you know.
I went around UP to see what is happening. Of course, the last time also, I went on a rath, but nobody remembers it.
Your father once said you were going on your honeymoon when he called you back.
Yeah, that's what. I wanted to do many things, you know. A few things were pending. I got married in 1999 and suddenly I get the news that after a week that I have to fight elections.
On November 24, I got married, and the following February I got elected. So I didn't get a chance, I wanted to go out, I wanted to finish a few assignments, I could not do that. I had joined politics!
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Image: Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav's father, with Muslim leaders
'I see and understand things from the perspective of the new generation'
How does your politics differ from your father's politics?
Not much, I am still following his... You know what, the same ideology. I am working in the same party where he is working.
I am asking about your style of functioning, everyone's way of doing things is different.
I see and understand things from the perspective of the new generation. So my father has made me the party president.
The age is different. There are mobile phones now, computers are being used. These days we use technology. In my father's day these things were not there.
He was also against technology, English etc... And here we are in his house, talking in English, using hi-tech equipment...
Haan, that's true, but he was not against English, only its use. Maanlo, you have come from Maharashtra, in its villages they may know Marathi and Hindi, but not so much English.
Hamara kehna itna tha agar log bhasha hai us mein kaam hoga, aam aadmi log samajh payenge (I am saying that these things should be in the local language, then people will understand it). I am sure it is the same in Maharashtra, is liye humne kaha ki computer jo denge woh Hindi mein bhi chalega (So I am saying that computers should be in Hindi also).
I think computers will work in Marathi too. Maybe ten years back, that was not possible. We have to move with technology. That is the difference you can say.
There are really no other differences, not really. We have to work in the same party, among the same workers. Even in our approach there is no real difference.
But the image your party had acquired, of being a goondas party, how did you change that image?
I have been running a campaign against it for five years. I have impressed upon the cadres that goonda-ism would work. You can see the result of five years of work.
No one has done any such work in five years. You can say that we do it in government. If we form the government and we are able to prevent it, then poeple's trust in us will go up.
Whatever we say now, people won't believe it. But I can give this assurance, that if we have not done it for five years, we will not allow it to be repeated once we come to power).
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Image: A Samajwadi Party rally
'Netaji will be the next chief minister'
Are you his political heir?
That's not true. Where I am today, any other worker can take that place.
That's like Rahul Gandhi saying that anyone can take his place, we all know that it is not possible.
If I am working for the party, it is because I want to prove myself. Otherwise, the partymen would not have accepted/liked me).
If only through my work the party benefits, then people will say okay he can also work. If tomorrow some good worker comes, I will step aside. No problem.
Will you say that in a sense your struggle is a lot like Rahul Gandhi's, both of you are trying to prove that you can do it on your own.
Bilkul, bilkul. Par response kisko milta hai? Maan lijiye, agar response Samjawadi Party ko mili toh iska matlab kahi na kahi Congress party ki kamzori hai. Kyunki agar Congress party janta se sawaal poochti toh log bhi Congress se sawaal pooch sakte hain. (Yes, yes. But who is getting the response? Assume that the SP gets the response, that means that it is due to the weakness of the Congress. Because if the Congress can ask questions of the poeple, the people can ask questions of the Congress).
You had opportunities for 40 years after Independence. You are ruling for the last eight years. If they are asking after 22 years, people are also asking arre bhai, what did you do in eight years?
There is inflation, where is the development schemes, what did you do in health sector, why are people not getting jobs, why youth are out with nothing in their hands? People are asking them.
Rahul Gandhi has staked his political future in UP. Do you think it can backfire on him?
He is working hard, good. What will happen; what response he will get, that we will come to know after March 6.
What if March 6 goes against you?
It won't go. It won't go, won't go. I am confident and sure that it will not go against us.
So are we talking to the future chief minister of UP?
Netaji (His father Mulayam Singh Yadav) will be the next chief minister.
What if he says no and says you will be the next CM?
No, no, that won't happen. Since Netaji, the party has given me this post, being the president, I am working hard.
To repeat, if Netaji tells you to become the next chief minister, then what?
No, I don't think Netaji will do that. Everybody in the party wants Netaji to become the chief minister.
But you must dream of someday becoming the chief minister.
I don't dream, I don't dream, I really don't dream. You trust me on that. I only work hard.
Image: Akhilesh Yadav has been the hero this election