Thana Bhawan (SHAMLI): Walking briskly on Delhi-Shamli highway, amid a shower of marigold by his supporters, BJP’s poster boy for Hindutva and Yogi government’s sugarcane development minister Suresh Rana doesn’t mince his words on religious appeasement of his party’s principal opponent.
This, as he staunchly defends his role in 2013-14 Muzaffarnagar riots during Akhilesh regime that brought Jats and Muslims to a deadly confrontation, leaving more than 60-odd Hindus dead and more than 50,000 displaced.
“We all know who in 2013-14 fed biryani and flew the accused on his chopper from Shamli to Lucknow. That period is long gone. We have got rid of them. We won’t allow their return,” quips the lanky two-time MLA, as he speaks to The New Indian’s Executive Editor Rohan Dua during last 48 hour of canvassing.
He doesn’t stop at it. “It was the Samajwadi Party that would instruct the police to let rioters walk scot free. Police would readily oblige them”.
A year before 2022 polls, a local court allowed to withdraw a case of inciting violence against 12 BJP leaders, including Rana, BJP MLA Sangit Som, ex BJP MP Bhartendu Singh and VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi in the riots case.
The local hero is relieved at the alleged frame-up by Akhilesh Yadav government as he walks amid huge cries of “Jo Ram ko laaye hai, hum unko laayenge” through cramped bylanes of Thana Bhawan.
Rana, who has been provided with a security detail by Yogi government, insists he is not afraid of attack by any community. But he says he’s delighted to allow beneficiaries of all communities to be made eligible for government and state schemes including PMAY housing scheme and Ujjwala for gas connections.
“Whenever there’s an intelligence input, they provide me security. I am personally not in favour of that. I am for the welfare of people,” he points out.
The 51-year-0ld turns ecstatic at the comparison of release of sugarcane dues for farmers with that during SP and BSP regimes.
“If you compare two regimes of Mayawati and Akhilesh, then also we have given more than Rs 20,000 crore to sugarcane farmers. That should be enough to tell who protects interests of farmers,” says Rana, who has held the portfolio of cane development since 2017 in Yogi government.
Rana, who has spent more than Rs 33,000 crore on development projects including two degree and five inter colleges, Budha babu pond, 160-km road connectivity with the national capital — a project that he takes pride in as he claims not many could afford to commute on this over fear of extortions, late night abductions and rape incidents.
“The displacement of people has stopped. Locals and outsiders travel via this road with as much freedom and as they would not travel to any other metropolitan city,” he says.
His colleague, Pankaj Aggarwal, from his alma mater Lala Lajpat Rai Inter Colllege recalls the struggle of yesteryears as he joins him in his campaign.
“My younger brother Neeraj who had cleared IIT those years and worked in UK and Bengaluru those years, would not even take a cab from Gurgaon airport to reach Shamli as drivers were afraid they would be waylaid by goons or crimelords. We had letters delivered to our homes by people asking for extortion. We could not get hotel rooms booked in neighbouring Uttarakhand for vacations if we showed our address proofs from Muzzafarnagar or Shamli,” remembers Aggarwal.
Rana’s son, Bhavya, though supports his father’s campaign but insists he would never opt for politics and enter into real-estate business to improve the image of Shamli.
He rejoices over his academic brilliance after class 12 results.
“I have come to join my father’s canvassing. But I am least interested in taking a dive into politics ever. I haven’t even met CM Yogi or PM Modi. I want to enter into real estate business and want Shamli to become a good satellite township in the shadow of Delhi and bring UP at par with Delhi,” he says