Akhilesh Yadav spends nearly five to six hours every day in the Samajwadi Party office in Lucknow these days, strategising for the upcoming elections. After moving to a new house in a different neighbourhood, the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has started playing lawn tennis, a game he seems to be enjoying. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Akhilesh spoke about his party’s future plans, and the present situation in Uttar Pradesh.
What are your future plans, keeping in mind the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and a slew of crucial state polls?
The dream of the Samajwadi Party is to become a national party, and we will do everything possible to make it a national party. For this, we will not hesitate to form alliances with even smaller outfits. The Samajwadi Party will not fight all seats in the upcoming assembly elections. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, we will go with partners, and in Rajasthan, the state unit will decide about the alliance and seats.
What about an electoral pact with the Congress?
The Congress does not deem our party to be that big to forge a pact. We will fight seats we are confident [of winning]. I personally feel that in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress wants to go it alone.
What is your opinion about the BJP government’s one-and-a-half-year rule in Uttar Pradesh?
Ever since this government has taken charge, it has not been able to show its work. It has only been laying foundation stones and inaugurating projects started by my government. When the government organised investors’ summits, I had asked which banks would give money. Not a single bank is ready to finance those projects.
It means your government had done better than the Yogi Adityanath government.
The Lucknow metro, the Dial 100 project, expressways, riverfront projects and many more were started by my government. There was only one Sainik school in the state, our government opened three more. We started more medical colleges, and linked remote places with good roads. The list is quite long.
Has the BJP belied people’s hopes?
Remember the promises made by the BJP in 2014 and 2017. The party gave such an impression that the entire country would get a “rajya better than Ram Rajya”. Has it happened? Rampant corruption, chaotic law and order, demonetisation, unbridled police [power], dismal employment scenario, migration, chaotic conditions of farmers—are these signs of Ram Rajya? The BJP made tall promises like running bullet trains and cleaning the Ganga. The country does not need bullet trains now. Our jawans fighting on the borders and other hostile terrain need adequate bulletproof jackets. The Ganga will never be cleaned unless the BJP’s intentions are clean.
Will the feud with your uncle Shivpal Yadav spoil your chances? Whom will Mulayam Singh Yadav support?
We fared badly in 2017 because we could not understand the BJP’s conspiracy. Netaji [Mulayam] is an institution. He is like a temple, whoever goes there gets the blessings. I am confident that his blessings will be with the Samajwadis.
You mean to say there is no rule of law?
Rule of law, where is it? The police have become trigger happy. The most recent example is the killing of Apple executive Vivek Tiwari. This government has received so many notices and has been reprimanded so many times by the High Court and the human rights commission, much more than the previous governments. I will not go into the details of the encounters by the state police, but a majority of them are planned and fake.
I do not think that the BJP wants to improve law and order. It has changed the [RSS] uniform from half pants to full pants, and has given cops guns instead of batons. This should be banned. Central government darr se democracy chala rahi hai aur hamare CM dande se sarkar chala rahe hain (the Central government is running democracy using fear, while the Uttar Pradesh chief minister is running the government with the help of a stick).
The BJP, however, is confident of improving its previous performance in the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP says it will win more than 73 [of 80] seats. I say it has forgotten the count. The BJP has already lost three bypolls and is now left with only 70 seats. It won the last Lok Sabha elections by deceit and guile. It said ache din layenge (we will bring good days). Have the good days come? The rising prices of petrol, diesel and other essential commodities have given the people a jolt. The Central government has been working without any strategy.
On what issue will your party fight the Lok Sabha elections?
The most important issue will be development. The country can be developed with the Samajwadi Party model, the metro being an example. It will be an ideological fight. In the coming days, we will snatch their chair. I am angry with the BJP and that is why I will defeat it. The BJP has been projecting me as backward. I am backward by birth, but the prime minister is backward [in terms of his record of development].
How reliable is your pact with Mayawati? Do you find her reliable?
I do not know about others, but I am reliable.