A true blue Brajwasi and RSS man at heart, Uttar Pradesh’s energy minister Shrikant Sharma is one of the dynamic leaders in the BJP government in the state.
An MLA from Mathura, Shrikant spent his childhood in Govardhan’s Gantholi village before he went on to study at Delhi University’s PGDAV College in 1991 and became part of ABVP. He worked closely with Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Chauhan and Anurag Thakur before handling media affairs in Delhi for the party. Five years ago, he shifted his base to UP and came with a punchline, Pandhra saal, Mathura Behal. Vidhayak badlo, Mathura badlo when the holy towns of Mathura and Vrindavan looked clogged with traffic while water in homes tasted salty. He brought flyovers and changed conditions of internal roads while also bringing a facelift to Braj 84 Koshi, Panch Koshi around Krishna Janmabhoomi, Rs 460-crore projects to clean Yamuna with new STPs and tapping, Rs 23.5 crore beautification of Krishna Janmabhoomi’s Ras Lila manch and repair and re-modelling of Vrindavan’s 45 narrow lanes apart from 169-km line for new water connections and more than 170 new parks in the city.
Rohan Dua, Executive Editor of The New Indian, caught up with him on his home turf at his home at Radha Valley in Mathura for a heart-to-heart talk on the political developments and his bid to re-elect from Mathura in February 10 polls when elections begin in the state.
Rohan Dua: One of the biggest talking points in the election season is the statement by the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya about ‘Krishna Janambhoomi’ which is First Ayodhya, then Varanasi and Mathura. Do you agree with that? Will it play on people’s mind and will it be an important issue in the years to come?
Shrikant Sharma: Cultural nationalism has been one of our planks and we wish to take it forward here in Mathura too. Lending divinity and grandeur to the birthplace (Krishna janambhoomi) is surely our objective. ‘Janambhoomi’ has a special place in our hearts and if we won’t lend divinity and dignity to it, then who else will? So whether its surrounding areas around Krishna birth site or inside, our job is to ensure its respect remains intact.
Our Prime Minister has a constructive approach and a vision on such issues which he has put forth to the world.
He has unveiled his ‘Kashi model’ (reference to recent Kashi Vishwanath corridor n Varanasi where land chunks of several Muslims was also acquired by UP government between 2017-2020 and they were rehabilitated). He has taken up cudgels to make our holy places look grand. We will stand besides him always.
Rohan Dua: But is development or the welfare of shrines and service to Hindu deities more important to you?
Shrikant Sharma: I have been fortunate to have been born in Mathura. We are all Krishna’s friends and he is ours. In the world, this is the only place where Brijvasis express solicitude for Lord Krishna. We call him Laddoo gopal. We are emotionally attached to Krishna.I am proud to be serving in the land of Brij. That part of me will always continue as a Brahmin. As a politician, my responsibilities include development of my constituency and Mathura. I take my both roles seriously.
Rohan Dua: Before 2017, power crisis was a big issue in UP. During the campaign in 2017, PM Modi made a statement that there was a time when electricity was disbursed only on Eid, not on Diwali. Does that statement still hold true or has UP moved forward?
Shrikant Sharma: Earlier, there was discrimination in power distribution on religious lines because previous governments only used to hoodwink people. Our government ensures power on Eid as well as Diwali. Now there is a Eid and a Diwali every day in Uttar Pradesh as power is being disbursed 24×7. Earlier, governments tried to influence a section of people by giving electricity only on Eid. What can be more unfortunate than this? In village, we are supplying minimum of 18-hour uninterrupted supply of electricity, 20 hours in tehsil and 24-hours in district headquarters. Besides, we have ensured no discrimination in power supply in UP. It’s equal distribution. Samajwadi Party (SP) needs to look itself into mirror for they did during their own regime than think of coming back to power again.
Rohan Dua: There is a controversy surrounding the exit of a few OBC ministers from the BJP government in UP ahead of the upcoming polls. Is a section of OBCs really alienated with the BJP or is it just a fallacy?
Shrikant Sharma: We don’t do politics of caste. Our biggest strength is our leadership — respected PM Modi ji. And our second biggest strength is booth-level management by our party workers who toil round the clock. I won’t comment on who left and why. But, we believe in taking all sections and communities together to achieve our vision of making India ‘Vishwa Guru’. Our government has worked for the welfare of every section without discrimination.
Rohan Dua: During your tenure, what have been the prominent most projects pertaining to development that have been taken place in Mathura? What has been your thrust?
Shrikant Sharma: The biggest pride for me is our efforts towards reviving the old glory of the ‘Braj’ region. We have succeeded to a large extent. The area around Vrindavan’s ‘panch koshi parikrama’ has been given a facelift. There was no place in Vrindavan for Kumbh; the area of around 190 acres has been reserved now for this purpose. ‘Moksha Dham’ has also come into existence during my tenure. Mathura and the entire ‘Braj’ region have decalared ‘tirth sthan’ (pilgrimage). This is a holy place and we work tirelessly to retain its sanctity. Pilgrims across the globe come here. For their convenience, many places have been beautified in the region.
Yamuna river is sacred for us and is our lifeline. The river kept getting polluted in the last 70 years and no one made concrete efforts to clean it. In 2019, our government organised ‘shila poojan’ and Rs 460 crore project was launched to purge Yamuna of pollutants. There were 35 dirty drains which used to contaminate Yamuna; out of them 31 have been tapped. Jawahar Bagh has also been purged and given a makeover as well. So, what didn’t happen in 70 years was attained by our government in 2 years.
The roads have become much better and Mathura has been cleaned of potholes and filth. The traffic system has been streamlined properly and there are CCTV cameras at 20 crossroads keeping security in mind. This makes me feel proud that the birthplace of Lord Krishna has been transformed for good during our government’s reign.
Rohan Dua: You are known as ‘Pandit’ Shrikant Sharmaji in Mathura. How has been your journey from being a pandit to becoming a legislator and minister?
Shrikant Sharma: I feel honoured that a simple village person like me, who was an ordinary worker of his party, has been elevated to such high position. I was first made in-charge of Himachal Pradesh where I received a lot of support and blessings from the party veterans. Then I was told to contest election from Mathura in 2017 and was subsequently made energy minister. The aim of the party was to take Mathura towards the light from the depths of darkness. Under the tutelage of our respected PM, we have been successful in our mission.
Rohan Dua: What is your favourite food in ‘Braj’ region and what do you eat when you come here?
Shrikant Sharma: I make it a point to savour ‘kachori’ and ‘jalebi’ in the morning whenever I am in Mathura. In the evening, I tuck into ‘chaat’. I start my visit to Mathura from Banke Bihari temple. I also go to Girajji, Barsana and Gokul. I’ll try to visit these places when I will file my nomination.
Rohan Dua: You seem to invoking the issue regarding security of people at your public speeches
Shrikant Sharma: Of course, why not? There was a time in SP regime when people could not step out of their homes after 8 pm. From doctors to bank clerks, they were abducted for a ransom. Such was the fear. We brought an end to that. Just like we secured our borders, we have secured our UP internally as well. That’s something which is a national pride for us as whenever PM Narendra Modi visits abroad, he gets respect for this firebrand leadership.