Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Akhilesh Yadav, who was in Varanasi ahead of the seventh phase polls, spoke to The New Indian’s Executive Editor Rohan Dua on the prospects of his party in 2022 Vidhan Sabha elections, in which he has aligned with smaller parties like Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and Apna Dal (Kamerawadi). He exuded confidence of winning more than 300 seats in this election.
Rohan Dua: Now that the sixth phase of the elections in Uttar Pradesh is over, where do you think you stand with regard to the number of seats?
Akhilesh Yadav: I am confident that we will cross the 300 seats mark with the coalition post this phase.
Rohan Dua – Do you think you have crossed 300 seats in the sixth phases?
Akhilesh Yadav – Yes. I believe that we have won more than 200 seats in the first fourth phases of the election.
Rohan Dua: This election is very important for you personally because after all, 2019 was short of, if I may say, a failed combination between you and BSP. The 2017 election also proved to be a failed attempt with Congress alliance. This time, you have allied with smaller partners, not major partners. Would that turn the luck for you?
Akhilesh Yadav: Definitely, this election is important for me, but I would say, it is even more important for the poor of the state. They (the present government) take the money from the poor and in turn, tell them that tum humara namak kha rahe ho (you owe loyalty to us). Whose money is it that the government is spending on people anyway? What is the source of these government funds? At the end of the day, it is the people who are paying for the vaccine. And all the government is doing is to take credit for the same. You (the government) are distributing salt using public money and then you tell them that they (the public) are doing ‘namak harami‘? Who is in the wrong here?
Rohan Dua: But they (people in the government) said that you stopped people from taking vaccines by calling it a BJP vaccine, while the vaccine was being freely distributed in UP.
Akhilesh Yadav: It’s one big farce. Did the US put the photo of its president, be it Donald Trump or Joe Biden, on vaccine certificates? Did Germany do it? Even Putin did not do that!
Rohan Dua: General perception is that Jats and Muslims combination worked in your favour in the first three phases. Is that the case?
Akhilesh Yadav: Not only Jats and Muslims but also Gujjars, Sainis, backward castes, Baniyas, and even Dalits are backing us for the first time — which is why I said we have scored a century after the fourth phase itself. We worked hard to build a combination of all communities by ensuring their representation while giving tickets.
Rohan Dua: Considering for the first time, you have aligned with small partners, SBSP for one, you also poached Anupriya Patel’s sister, Pallavi, who was fielded against Deputy CM Keshav Maurya…
Akhilesh Yadav: Poached is a wrong word. Their (Apna Dal-K) motto is: There should be no politics in reservation, no privatisation should take place. Their party was let down by the BJP on both the accounts – be it the upliftment of OBCs and backward class or privatisation. So they felt slighted. All regional parties have their aspirations; they want to be accounted for. The BJP is denying them their rights.
Rohan Dua: So you think the announcement on OBC reservations was an issue?
Akhilesh Yadav: It’s not about the announcement of reservations. People went on the stage (Amit Shah and Sanjay Nishad) and clearly said, “No reservation and no vote”.
Rohan Dua: Your critics cite the examples of leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia or for that matter, Jitin Prasada and RPN Singh who joined BJP here, saying these leaders could have easily joined SP. Is it to say that the BJP in UP has been a big draw?
Akhilesh Yadav: BJP accuses us of dynastic politics but they themselves want to promote dynastic politics. Since they have no family, they want to take the dynasts along with them. Who is Jyotiraditya Scindia? His father was a politician and two of his aunts have long been associated with the BJP. Now he too has been drawn into the party (BJP) fold.
Rohan Dua: You fielded a very strong candidate against Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya. To counter that, BJP played cleverly by fielding SP Singh Baghel, a former aide to your father, against you. Would that make a difference?
Akhilesh Yadav: That person you are talking of went about telling the people of his community that he would get them appointed as judges in the high court and Supreme Court, if elected. Can a law minister appoint judges in the high court or Supreme Court, for that matter? People saw through his lies and he faced defeat in the polls. This time too, he will lose by a huge margin.
Rohan Dua: Several ministers including home minister have come to Varanasi for campaigning. You too took your entire family to Mainpuri and also to Etawah when you went to campaign for yourself. Isn’t that the politics of family and not a party?
Akhilesh Yadav: I call these people tourists. They are here for tourism. On the other hand, we (the family) including Neta Ji have spent our lives here. We have relatives in the places you are talking about. It is not as if we have established our connection with people recently. Our connection dates back hundreds of years. What is wrong with us going back to the place where we live? Neta Ji completed his studies there, later he taught students, joined wrestling, and started out in politics there. He spent his life there. Why can’t Neta Ji go to his constituency?
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