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'Compromising with Congress is SP's majboori'

March 28, 2024 10:44 IST
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'They know that if they do not tie up with the Congress, then the minorities will move to the Congress.'

IMAGE: Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav,right, holds a mace with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Agra, February 25, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Thirty one years is a long time to be associated with any political party and prove one's loyalty.

Former Samajwadi Party leader Manoj Kumar Pandey did just that, but only to part ways and rebel against the party's whip.

Last month, Pandey surprised political pundits in Uttar Pradesh when he resigned as the SP's chief whip in the state assembly, which subsequently led to the party's third Rajya Sabha candidate Alok Ranjan losing the election.

The BJP had the strength to ensure the win of seven candidates but it ensured that its 8th Rajya Sabha nominee too won thanks to cross-voting by SP MLAs.

"The Samajwadi Party has to rethink why a man like Manoj Kumar Pandey had to quit the party," Pandey, still the SP MLA from the Unchahar assembly constituency in Rai Bareli, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/

One month ago you resigned as chief whip of the Samajwadi Party, which led to its third candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls losing the election. How do you view your move one month later?

I have been in the Samajwadi Party for 31 years. I joined the party in 1993. I was its youth president, held posts like vice president and general secretary of the party.

In 1995, I contested the corporation election for the first time on the SP's ticket. I was elected four times on the SP ticket and I was two-time minister in the SP government.

I joined the SP due to the influence of Ram Manohar Lohia's ideology. The crux of his ideology was 'samaj ko jodo' (bring unity in society).

His other belief was that the last man standing in line or the poorest man of all should get justice.

He didn't speak about the caste of that person but spoke of his helplessness and poverty.

But the Samajwadi Party is now run on (Dravidian ideologue E V Ramaswamy Naicker) Periyar's ideology. They are abusing Lord Ram and Sita Maa and Lakshmi Mata.

Is it not the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) leaders who support Periyar's ideology and not SP leaders? The DMK is only an INDIA bloc partner.

I am talking about Swami Prasad Maurya who was national general secretary of the Samajwadi Party.

But he is no longer in the party.

When he was in the party he was speaking against the Ramcharit Manas. He was abusing Brahmins.

I opposed his statements when I was with the party. But the leaders who quit the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) to join the Samajwadi Party are spreading Periyar's ideology in the party.

It was not Swami Prasad alone, but many such Swami Prasads who joined the SP and believe in Periyar's ideology.

Our national leaders started accepting all these leaders in the party and my opposition to their stance started right from that moment.

I gave 29 statements opposing such views within the party.

India's Constitution says clearly that no one must abuse any other religion and we all Indians must respect each other's religion.

I stood by Lohia's ideology for 31 years and I saw not more than 10 years of SP rule. We had a short stint as a ruling party but overall I have been in the Opposition most of the time in my political career with the SP.

I went to jail 29 times and have broken my bones many times in protest against different government policies as SP leader.

The Samajwadi Party has to rethink why a man like Manoj Kumar Pandey had to quit the party.

I was number two in the party. Had I wanted to gain something I could have quit the SP in 2017, 2019 or even in 2022 when I could have got a good ministerial posting. I didn't accept any post then.

Are you unhappy because the Samajwadi Party speaks of PDA (Pichhde meaning backward, Dalit and Alpsankhyak meaning minorities) and you are an upper caste?

If the SP is talking of PDA, then they need to find out why Pallavi Patel from the Apna Dal, who was a part of the PDA, quit.

Om Prakash Rajbhar too was part of the PDA and quit.

Puja Pal was a PDA member and did not vote for the SP candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections.

Ashutosh Maurya, the SP MLA from Bisauli, too didn't vote for the SP candidate.

Jayant Choudhary quit this PDA alliance. This introspection, the SP leadership needs to do.

Akhilesh Yadav says he is for PDA.

I was born in a Brahmin family and I feel fortunate that in my political career I got a chance to work with Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav's father and the founder pf the Samajwadi Party).

He used to respect and stand like a rock behind his party workers.

I worked with leaders like Beni Prasad Verma, Jyoti Raman Singh, Brijbhushan Tiwari, Mata Prasad Pandey, Kameshwar Upadhya. All these leaders' hard work got scattered like dust today.

If a man like me who never gave up on the party's ideology for 31 years gave up now, surely it means I had compulsion to take this step.

And whatever I am telling you, I have said these things in the party forum 200 times and separately to the leadership too.

I said our party was formed to fight for the rights of the poor and weak. The Samajwadi Party was not formed to speak against some religion.

Were you upset because the SP leaders did not go for the Ram Mandir consecration in Ayodhya on January 22?

SP leaders should have gone for the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22. I took permission from the national leader of the party and told the speaker of the UP assembly that any MLA who wants to go to Ayodhya, his travel arrangements must be done by the UP assembly.

Two hours later, our national president got influenced by Periyar leaders in our party and changed the stance.

He said on the floor of the House that no one will go for darshan of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

I did not agree with his viewpoint. I said no one can stop anyone from visiting any religious place. Be it a mandir or masjid or a gurdwara. No one should be stopped to perform prayers by any political party.

IMAGE: Manoj Kumar Pandey. Photograph: ANI Photo

Do you feel Akhilesh Yadav feared losing Muslim votes if SP leaders went for the consecration of the Ram temple?

To mix religion with votes is wrong. For an elected representative all those who vote for him, or even who do not vote for him, are his family members.

It looks like Akhilesh Yadav feared a Muslim backlash in the elections.

I have no idea what he was thinking. I would only say that I believe in Lohia and not Periyar.

Did you not feel that Akhilesh Yadav would be deeply hurt by your going against the party's decision?

Yes, he did feel hurt and so did I as I was with the SP for 31 years of my life.

But, then, I came to politics for some principles and if my party has moved away from those principles, then it was suffocating for me to be in the party.

It is not necessary for me that I will do politics in future, but it is important that I live according to my conscience.

What about your voters or your SP supporters? What do they tell you?

I never won elections with the support of one particular caste. I win from that assembly seat (Unchahar in Rai Bareli) from where the SP lost badly six times. They won only when I contested that seat.

In my constituency there are 20,000 SP voters and I get one lakh votes. It is very clear that the additional 80,000 votes come to me because of my own stature and people's love.

IMAGE: Akhilesh Yadav with newly joined party members at a press conference in Lucknow, March 9, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

Do you feel that the selection of Rajya Sabha candidates was wrong? They should not have given a ticket to Jaya Bachchan again and moreover, there were no PDA community in the list which Saleem Shervani told me in an interview before quitting the SP.

There are many such questions being raised in the party. The question is, there is 22 percent voting in Rampur (jailed SP leader Azam Khan's bastion) and in Mainpuri there is 52 percent voting.

In Rampur there are 129 cases filed against Opposition parties and in Mainpuri there are no cases filed against the Opposition.

The questions are obviously going to be raised as in Rampur it was Azam Khan (his close aide Asim Raja) who was contesting and in Mainpuri it was Dimple Yadav (Akhilesh Yadav's wife) who was contesting.

When a case is filed against Rameshwar Yadav, then the SP's national general secretary, Ram Gopalji (Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav's uncle and senior SO leader) goes to (UP Chief Minister) Yogi Adityanath's home that he needs to be saved.

On the other hand when all kind of cases were filed against Azam Khan, why did our leaders not go and meet Yogi Adityanath or Home Minister Amit Shah to save him? I am not raising this question, but these are the questions raised within the SP forum.

Azam Khan told me years ago that the problem with the SP is that all its leaders have the free will to speak and nobody is scared. They speak their mind.

Any home or in a political party, if there is no discipline in it, then that party or home members will not stay together for long. There is nothing called discipline in the Samajwadi Party.

What prospects does the SP have in UP after the Congress tie-up for the 2024 general elections?

It is the SP's majboori (helplessness).

They know that if they do not tie up with the Congress then the minorities will move to them (the Congress).

To save its existence, the SP is compromising with the Congress.

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