Akhilesh Yadav interview: I have learnt how to defeat the BJP

‘We will get our majority in the first four phases’

Akhilesh Yadav | Pawan Kumar Akhilesh Yadav | Pawan Kumar

Q/ Half of this election is over. How do you gauge public sentiment?

A/ Since the BJP has come to power, a 440-volt current is running through the electorate against it. Of course, the party does not realise this. The first question it needs to answer is—why is inflation so high? Then, why is it that, despite the much-touted ‘double engine’, there are no jobs. The youth of the state are ready to uproot the tracks on which their train of lies runs.

When farmers came out with their demands, forget listening to them, they (the BJP) put up barricades, fixed nails on roads, called in whatever (police) forces they could and labelled the farmers terrorists and mawalis (disreputable characters). 700 of them lost their lives. It took them (the BJP-led Centre) that long to take back the black laws. When the SP rath (chariot) started moving from Ghazipur to Lucknow (November 2021), the government was petrified [by the crowds we were attracting]. Elections were looming in Punjab and UP, so they had no option but to withdraw the laws.

BJP leaders keep saying A for this, B for that (Yogi Adityanath had said ‘Abba jaan’ to allude to the preference the SP gives Muslims during its rule), but I say only this—‘Kaka’ for Kaale Kanoon (black laws). Kaka went and now it is Baba’s turn to go. I heard he has already booked a flight ticket to Gorakhpur.

In this election, the people’s only concern is how to defeat the BJP. The only alternative they see is the SP.

Q/ Where does the SP stand after three phases of polling?

A/ In the first two phases, we have hit a century. With the fourth phase, we will complete another century. We will get our majority in these four phases. Then we will go beyond it.

Q/ The kind of language used in this election has been unfortunate. Why has politics come to this?

A/ As children, we were taught that when one begins to get irritated sensing the possibility of defeat, one uses foul language. The BJP is using the language of a loser.

It is the responsibility of the Election Commission of India to keep a check [on this]. Our PM is very educated, so is [Home Minister] Amit Shah ji. They should use good language and set a precedent. Instead, look at what their party candidate in Domariyaganj said. (Raghvendra Pratap Singh, the sitting BJP MLA from the constituency, had said that those Hindus who do not vote for the BJP must have Muslim blood in their veins).

There is an IG (inspector general of police) in Lucknow who is pressurising voters to choose the BJP because her husband is contesting (the reference is to Rajeshwar Singh, a former Enforcement Directorate official). We have filed two complaints before the ECI, but no action has been taken.

Q/ You have struck two crucial alliances in the west (with the Rashtriya Lok Dal) and the east (with the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party). Which do you think will be the most beneficial?

A/ This is a very different election. It is the public that is fighting this election against the BJP. And, in every phase, the people are concerned with just one thing—how to get the SP and its allies more votes than the previous phase. We are only standing with the public with our regional allies.

Q/ Which new voter is coming to you in this election?

A/ All our voters are new voters. As I say, Nayi hawa hai, nayi Sapa hai (these are fresh winds, this is a new SP). Our alliance partners have gotten us the votes of many castes. I would go as far as saying that there is no caste that has not voted for us in this election.

Q/ Is there a possibility of a post-poll alliance?

A/ I do not think that will be necessary; we will get a majority.

Q/ Do you not think that an alliance (with the Congress or the Bahujan Samaj Party) would have prevented a split of the anti-BJP vote?

A/ In this election, the people’s only concern is how to defeat the BJP. The only alternative they see is the SP. Look at how poorly the BSP and the Congress did in the last elections.

Q/ After the BJP, who is your biggest competitor in this election?

A/ There is no other party in the reckoning.

Seeking change: SP supporters at a roadshow in Lucknow | Pawan Kumar Seeking change: SP supporters at a roadshow in Lucknow | Pawan Kumar

Q/ There has been some anger in your party over ticket distribution.

A/ All anger and resentment is over. Those who got tickets are campaigning with support from other party workers. I have seen that on the ground, in all the phases. In Sirathu (where the candidate against Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya is alliance partner Apna Dal (K)’s Pallavi Patel), all ticket contenders were on stage together.

At the start of any election, there are disagreements, but all these are resolved quickly….I told the ticket hopefuls to decide among themselves who deserved the ticket the most. I asked them to sort it out over a meal. If they still could not decide, then it was my call.

Q/ What have you learnt in the years that you have been out of power?

A/ I have learnt how to defeat the BJP. I have learnt that farmers, the poor, the young, traders and workers are the decision makers. There is no formula that can work beyond them.

Here (in his office) I sit facing [idols] of the gods. Look at all of Yogi ji’s pictures; the images of gods are behind him. So, essentially, he is showing his back to the gods. This is not right. Even God is with us in this election.

Q/ Besides anti-incumbency, what is working for you in this election?

A/ People believe that we can get work done. It is this trust that is getting us votes. During the pandemic, it was the infrastructure we created (hospitals, ambulance service, police helpline) that benefited people the most. There were so many people from various districts who told me that they had never been on a flight, but the expressways that we created helped them get back home during the lockdown....

Look at what this government is doing. Where are the smartphones it had promised? The tablets that they distributed are farzi (fake) and do not [have] the specifications they promised. But then that is bound to happen when Baba ji himself does not know how to use a tablet. While the public looks in one direction, he is looking in another.

Q/ You are a family person. How does that influence your politics?

A/ Listen to the language the BJP uses. How is it justified for them to talk about Neta ji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) in the way they did? (S.P. Singh Baghel, the BJP candidate from Karhal, said that the senior Yadav had been forced to campaign for his son). If Neta ji is with me they are bothered, if he is not with me, they are still irritated. We have not spoken about anyone’s family in the campaign. The public notices all of this.

During the pandemic, I read a report about a woman who was walking from Maharashtra to Lalitpur (Uttar Pradesh) and had to deliver her child. She rested for just three hours and resumed her walk. I called up a party worker at 6am and asked him to get immediate help to her. I told him 'If the police stop you (the lockdown was in force) make them speak to me.'

That day, our worker gave the lady Rs20,000. Later, I sent 01 lakh for her. We gave Rs1 lakh to 90 families whose members had died in the attempt to get back home… This was not our responsibility, but that of the government, yet we did our duty because we have empathy. These are just some examples I am sharing to illustrate my point that only a family man can understand the pain of another family. Those who call us ‘pariwarwadis’ and live alone can never understand a family’s pain.

The buses that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (Congress general secretary) sent were stopped at the state’s borders, but we got buses from Chennai with people who wanted to get back home. My instructions were clear—wherever the police stop the buses, in whichever state, they should be paid so that the buses continue the journey. We had to do this because we had figured out that that was the only way to get anything done in this government.

Q/ Being called a ‘pariwarwadi’ then should be a compliment.

A/ Unfortunately, the connotation of the word in Hindi is different from that in English. Their intention is to say that we only promote family in the party.

Q/ How different are you from your father? One of the complaints against you is that you are not as accessible.

A/ I am my father’s son and share his ideology. My father did the best that he could in his time. Neta ji is committed to supporting and strengthening the party as it moves forward.

That I am inaccessible is another lie created by the BJP and the RSS. I recently spent six hours standing to allow numerous party workers to get photos with me. Tell me of another leader—in any party—who has done something similar.

Q/ You are the party’s only nationally known face, hence the entire campaign is centred on you. What do you do to unwind?

A/ I am not saying that. That would be blowing my own horn. There is no need for relaxation. But I do talk to friends.

Q/ Has this government done any good?

A/ They let bulls roam on the roads. That was a sight we had never seen before. The best thing that they did was that they did not do anything worthwhile, and that is why we will win this election. We built the office (Lok Bhawan) in which the chief minister sits, our government bought the sofa he sits on, as well as the chopper he flies in. He inaugurates projects we initiated. That is a good feeling.

Q/ What will your immediate priorities be if you form the government?

A/ Infrastructure building and employment. We want to build bigger, better infrastructure than what we did last time. Remember, we went beyond our promises and even initiated the Purvanchal expressway, which this government inaugurated.

As for employment, it is difficult to find it if the state’s chief minister claims he is working 24 hours a day. That means he is taking away the work of so many others. We have some innovative ideas for employment.

For instance, just like we have shiksha mitra (para teachers), we will have mitra (friend) to protect the environment, our rivers and water bodies, and also the Sarus crane (the state bird). We will build media facilitation centres in every tehsil and regional media hubs that will also create jobs. We will set up a traders’ protection commission that will create thousands of jobs. Our manifesto has details of how we will rejuvenate the MSME sector to generate one crore jobs and also how we will create 22 lakh high-quality IT jobs.

We want to not just look at history for pride, but also connect it to employment. Look at a simple product like the bangles of Firozabad—one person scoops out the molten glass, another works on a ‘motor’ to shape it, someone else sells it and it is worn by someone else. This brings together people of all castes and religions. This is what we want to bring back to this state. We do not want the BJP to be back as it has no respect for democracy.