Aparna Yadav revels in speaking her mind. The feisty 34-year-old has never been the demure choti bahu she would have been expected to be on account of being married to Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger son, Prateek.
Eyebrows were raised when Aparna recently joined the BJP in the run-up to the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. Having contested and lost assembly elections in 2017, she had reportedly been left out in the cold in the SP, which is now headed by her brother-in-law, Akhilesh Yadav.
In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Aparna said she had informed Mulayam about her decision to join the BJP, and that he did not dissuade her. Since joining the BJP, she has not talked to Akhilesh and his wife, Dimple.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q/ What made you join the BJP?
A/ I am a firm believer in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision and his slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas'. I am also deeply influenced by the good governance ushered in by our Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh, which was earlier known more for lawlessness and lack of development.
Q/ How has the initial experience been?
A/ It is very hectic, since I am campaigning extensively. Of course, it is a big shift for me. But the party has been very welcoming and I have got so much respect.
Q/ As a daughter-in-law of the Yadav family, it must have been a difficult decision.
A/ I continue to be a bahu of Neta ji (Mulayam), and am an integral part of the family. I have chosen a nationalistic brand of politics and distanced myself from the parivarvaad (nepotistic) brand of politics.
Q/ But it meant giving up the Samajwadi ideology for another.
A/ Samajwad (socialism) does not exist in the Samajwadi Party today. It has degenerated into something else.
Q/ How do you reconcile with the view that the BJP practises divisive politics?
A/ Parties critical of the BJP have practised politics of appeasement and polarised society on caste and community lines. Modi ji has given homes to Muslims, too. Ration was distributed across communities. So how can one accuse the BJP of pitting Hindus against Muslims? Just because the BJP started building Ram Temple, it has not neglected Muslims.
Q/ How do you view the hijab controversy?
A/ It is an international conspiracy against Modi ji. And it was meant to have an impact on elections. Those behind this conspiracy felt threatened by Modi ji’s popularity among Muslim women. He has done so much to empower them. The triple talaq law is an example.
Hijab is a matter of personal choice. But in a school, a certain decorum has to be followed. Uniform is needed, so that there is nothing to distinguish between students from different communities.
Q/ It is said you joined the BJP because of your political ambition.
A/ People don’t ask questions of male leaders who break families and form new parties. They are not called ambitious or aspirational. But if a woman takes a view divergent from that of her family, her intent is questioned. People did not spare Sita. I am only Aparna Yadav.
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Q/ Why are you not contesting?
A/ Even in 2017, I had not sought a ticket. Neta ji had insisted that I contest. I was given a very difficult seat. I would have won, but for the fight within the party and the family.
Q/ You were expected to contest from Lucknow Cantonment this time, too. Did you seek a ticket?
A/ It is a seat the SP has never won. It is a BJP stronghold. But Neta ji believed I could win. But an intra-family feud erupted. This resulted in the cadre also getting divided. Despite that, I got 64,000 votes—a never-before number for the party.
This time, I did not ask for a ticket although I have worked in the constituency. I said I wanted to campaign for the party.
Q/ Did you consult your father-in-law about joining the BJP?
A/ He asked me whether I would be happy in the BJP. He never said I should not join it. He asked me to follow my heart.
Q/ You spoke about SP’s ideological erosion. Who is responsible for it?
A/ The fight within the family led to a disintegration of the cadre. That, and the fact that Neta ji was not at the helm, destroyed the party’s ideological basis.
Q/ Are you on talking terms with Dimple and Akhilesh Yadav?
A/ Whenever they want to meet me, I will not say no. I will be very respectful towards them because they are my elders.
Q/ Have you spoken to them after you joined the BJP?
A/ I did not get the time. And he (Akhilesh) also does not have time because he has been campaigning. Whenever we get time, we will speak to each other. But he has given me his blessings through interviews. I am grateful for that.
Q/ Your husband, Prateek, is keeping away from politics.
A/ He says he is a businessman. He does not want to join politics, as of now. He wants to pursue his passions, be it body-building or animal welfare, away from the limelight.
Q/ As a woman leader, how do you view Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s move to give 40 per cent tickets to women?
A/ They (the Congress) don’t have a vote base or cadre in UP. They gave 40 per cent tickets to women in UP because nobody wanted the Congress ticket. Why was the same not done in Punjab or Uttarakhand?