Minister of state (MoS) for law and justice S P Singh Baghel, who is a sitting Lok Sabha MP from Agra, surprised many in Uttar Pradesh when he decided to take on former Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav from Karhal Vidhan Sabha, in the family backyard of Mulayam Yadav family, but as he builds his campaign his only target is the entire family tree that he rattles off, calling them purv (ex after their defeats in 2019 Lok Sabha pols) — Dharmendra Yadav (Badayu), Akshay Yadav and Dimple Yadav (Kannauj), all whom lost during the second Modi wave. He describes himself as Narendra Modi’s Ashwamedh horse. He also likes to compare Mulayam as Dronacharya who wished only the best for Arjun and not his own son Ashwathama in the war, recalling his days which he spent as PSO to the Samajwadi Party patriarch . He spoke to The New Indian’s Executive Editor Rohan Dua during a campaign trail. Excerpts.
Rohan: Your party has sent you to a Vidhan Sabha seat despite you being a sitting minister in Modi cabinet. Why?
Baghel: would like express my gratitude that they considered me worthy of contesting against Samajdwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. If Akhilesh has chosen his favourite seat to contest from, my party has chosen their favourite worker.
Rohan: I saw how you used wit attack the ‘Yadav’ family. Did the fact that Akshay Yadav lost Firozabad and Dimple Yadav from Kannauj give you the confidence the family no longer hold much clout? The fact that many Yadav family members are no longer MPs as they were either defeated or could not be fielded. Does that give you confidence?
Baghel: Earlier, people here didn’t have hope that anyone can defeat ‘Saifai’ family here. But now people are seeing a ray of hope and are rallying around me. When Smriti Irani said in 2019 that she would storm the Congress bastion ‘Amethi, not many people believed her, but she managed to achieve that. The bastions of ‘Firozabad’, ‘Kannauj’ etc have already been breached. ‘Karhal’ will join that list.
Rohan: I was travelling in ‘Gatiman Express’ and the TT told me that you’ve travelled in that train many times. They got their pics clicked with you and had an interaction as well.
Baghel: People don’t like arrogant politicians. They might vote for someone who is corrupt, but not for a person who is arrogant.
Rohan: What happens if you go on to win the election and shock Akhilesh and SP?Baghel: I will stand by people of ‘Karhal’ if I win from here. The people of Agra (his Lok Sabha constituency) might not be very pleased at the moment, but they will understand and come around. This will be a historical decision by the people if I win from here. I will resign as MoS within 14 days if I win from ‘Karhal’.
Rohan: You had served in Samajwadi Party, remained an MP during their tenure. How do you compare Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh?
Baghel: Mulayam Singhji was the son of the soil. He was different. His son (Akhilesh) is a ‘Twitter-putra’. I make it a point to attend all social functions in the constituencies, be it marriage ceremonies, ‘dangal’, religious carnivals etc. I also look after all basic issues such as water, drainage, cleaniness, condition of roads, pension for widows. I believe in people-to-people contact. I look after all the developmental work and issues related to people. I am the only Member of Parliament in India who has stayed in Delhi’s ‘Lutyens zone’ for only 23 nights. Though I have been an MP for five terms, I go to Agra every day even the parliament sessions are going on. Now, my responsibilities as a minister have increased. People don’t like arrogant politicians. They might vote for someone who is corrupt, but not for a person who is arrogant.
I got 2nd rank in the university when I did my MSc in Military Science in 1982. I joined the police force after that and did Law concurrently. So, I have done MSc, Law, MA (history) and Ph.D. I was a part of security posse of Mulayamji, but I left him 29 years ago. So, it’s not like I left him yesterday and contesting against his son today. An era has passed. I left the SP 12 years ago.
The result of the assembly polls will be declared on March 10. If I win from Karhal, it’ll be a record that I would be attending three different assemblies.
Rohan: Many people say that Karhal has about 1.2 lakh voters from Yadav community while 20,000 are Muslims and rest are from Brahmins, Baniyas, Thakurs and non-Yadav OBCs
Baghel: I don’t want to get into caste politics, but can they show even one Samajwadi Party flag on the homes of people from my caste (Baghel)? See, they want to make caste a major issue in these elections, but we are contesting elections on the issue of public welfare. They are making this election Yadav vs Non Yadav. But even among Yadavs there are many beneficiaries of our welfare schemes. As you can see there is a lot of poverty here. People are scared of the goons of the SP. Their houses and plots of land are not safe. They don’t get proper respect.
Rohan: You were attacked two days ago in Ateekullapur in Kabrai village, allegedly by Samajwadi Party workers.
Baghel: Whoever fights against them from here are attacked (talking about an attack on him). The incidents of booth capturing and repolls are also common here. Through your organisation, I would like to draw the attention of Election Commission towards rampant countermand here. These incidents happen where people of Yadav family contest elections. In 1991 Lok Sabha polls, the result of all the five assemblies of the Etawah constituency were annuled by the then EC chief TN Seshan. Once, the Lok Sabha elections took place three times here in six months. You can imagine how tough it is for me to fight an election from such an assembly constituency where such incidents are commonplace.
Rohan: You said the blessings of Mulayam Singhji are with you. But today he came here to campaign for his son.
Baghel: Mulayam Singhji might be campaigning for his son in ‘Karhal’, but his blessings are with me. What Akhilesh did to him in 2017 – removed him as SP chief – was disgraceful. No son has ever done this to his father in the history of Indian politics. Aurangzeb had done this to Shah Jahan. Sikandar Lodi had done this to Bahlol Lodi. Mulayamji hasn’t come here on his own volition, he has been forced to come here and campaign for his son. Fear has made Akhilesh do that. Dronacharya and Bhishm Pitamah fought with Kaurvas, but their blessings were with Arjun.
Rohan: Shivpal Yadav, who had formed his own party, has once again collaborated with his nephew for the elections
Baghel: Shivpal Yadavji has got just one seat which he would have won anyway. No other worker of his party has been given ticket by thr SP. So, Shivpalji has got a raw deal.