Would you agree that in the election between the Congress and BJP, the BJP has forged ahead?
This election is not between the BJP and the Congress. Across the country, the contest is between regional parties against the Congress at some places, against the BJP at some places. And in most states the established regional parties are very strong. For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, there is Jaganmohan Reddy, not the BJP… In Uttar Pradesh, the regional parties — Samajwadi Party, BSP — the contest will be between them, however much Narendra Modi or whoever else fights. Across the country, it is the regional parties that have the upper hand.
Isn’t there a Modi wave, especially in UP?
Forget a wave, the BJP is not even finding candidates there. They are looking for candidates from the BSP, the SP, some disgruntled Congressmen. The wave is seen only on TV channels.
But can the regional parties be a national alternative?
See, not just in India but in many countries, governments are formed by a coalition of many small parties. Even in a small country such as Israel (and) in others such as France and Germany.
Modi has said the third front is a “third rate” idea.
That is an insult to states where regional parties are much stronger than the BJP. And it reflects Modi’s fascist mindset.
What parties do you count as potential allies?
People have made up their minds and this will become clear after elections. At this stage, I don’t want to name the parties that will be part of it.
Can the Trinamool Congress be a part of it?
When the Left could come together with the Congress, it is not necessary that wherever there is the Left, Mamata (Banerjee) can’t come.
Does the Samajwadi Party consider the Trinamool a potential ally?
Our relations aren’t bad. And the many parties that have come together don’t have bad relations either.
Do you think it was appropriate for CPI’s A B Bardhan to name AIADMK’s Jayalalithaa a PM candidate?
Parties can say anything in their states while seeking votes but Jayalalithaa herself said he (Bardhan) shouldn’t have said that. When two or more parties are in discussion, any talk about a PM candidate by another party isn’t appropriate. It is different if the AIADMK says in Tamil Nadu that Jayalalithaa will be PM, or the SP says this (about Mulayam Singh Yadav) in UP. But when all parties sit together, no one is a claimant to the post.
So when you campaign in UP, will you portray Mulayam as possible PM?
All regional parties have the right, within their respective states, to campaign the way they want to… Whether or not we say that (about Mulayam), all our workers seek votes doing so.
Have the Muzaffarnagar riots harmed the SP? Will the Muslim vote go against it?
No. Earlier we had only one seat in western UP, now we will win at least four.
Your statement supporting Arvind Kejriwal while on dharna took many by surprise.
I said that if on the request of a CM, the home minister can’t transfer one police inspector, the only way left is to protest in a democratic manner.
Do you think the Aam Aadmi Party can be a national alternative?
No, it can never be. The people’s experience of these few days hasn’t been good.
Is it because of CBI cases, as often alleged, that you’ve had to offer support to the government or retract after challenging it?
No, we’ve never had to retract because of the CBI. But it is true that the CBI inquiry against Netaji and the PILs against him… the PILs were filed at the behest of senior Congress ministers… If we hadn’t supported the Congress then, it would have increased the chances of the BJP coming to power in future.
Who would you rate your main challenger in UP?
All other parties are quiet now, only the SP and BJP are displaying strength.
There is a question about the real power centre in the Akhilesh Yadav government in UP.
That’s just propaganda. Decisions are always taken by the CM. There is no other power centre. It is not like Delhi, where the PM doesn’t say anything.