Having completed two years as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath tells Ravish Tiwari that people will vote in this election to choose the Prime Minister and the local candidate is not going to be the most important question on their mind. Excerpts:
You are marching from one Kumbh to another (election) Kumbh. A lot of energy and effort was spent on the Kumbh. For what purpose?
Kumbh has been a confluence of faith. It is also a medium to create a perception of Uttar Pradesh in the country and India’s perception across the world. Prayagraj Kumbh achieved a lot and I credit Prime Minister Modi for it. I got only 1.5 years to organise the Kumbh during which we had to create the infrastructure to present it as a unique event for the world. Prime Minister Modi was the first to remind me about Kumbh when I went to meet him in June 2017 (after becoming CM). The reason was that the Prime Minister had already undertaken initiatives to get Kumbh recognised by UNESCO as the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Based on the 2013 experience, we estimated the participation of 12-15 crore people. But it is estimated that 24 crore people attended Kumbh in 2019… PM of Mauritius had returned disappointed with poor hygiene arrangements at Kumbh in 2013. The Mauritius PM came this time and took a dip. We spent about Rs 4,000 crore in organising Kumbh. Compare this with the Commonwealth Games organised at an expenditure of Rs 70,000 crore. The work remained incomplete at the time of Games despite preparations for over three years. It was a huge mismanagement even though it didn’t witness such a large footfall. The way we have succeeded in organising this smoothly, the BJP will succeed in the Mahakumbh of democracy. Follow more election news here.
You are walking into this election Mahakumbh with a series of setbacks. First, in your own turf, having lost Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana, and at the national level, the BJP lost Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
One step backwards and 10 steps forward are parts of success. Remember, the BJP in 2014 won 73 seats (in UP) with allies. In 2015, the BJP-led alliance won 325 out of 403 seats in the state. BSP got wiped out in the last Lok Sabha election. In Assembly elections, BSP, SP and Congress performed their worst. In urban local body elections, the SP and Congress were swept away. If there is no opposition, democracy becomes meaningless. Remember, the electorate is going to participate in the election for Prime Minister. Who is going to be the candidate is not the moot question. We have the world’s most popular, most sincere person who has retained a spotless image in more than 20 years in public life. Yeh kewal BJP ka saubhagya hai ki uske paas aisa neta hai, apitu desh bhi isko apna saubhagya manta hai ki hamare pass aisa Pradhan Mantri hai (Not only the BJP, the country too considers itself fortunate to have such a Prime Minister).
The country is going to reiterate its faith in Modi. In 2014, Modi only had his name, now he has his works as well. His achievements are before everyone. The 2019 election is important to elect a leadership which can take the country forward. There has been unprecedented work aimed at the welfare of common public in the last five years. I have been MP for five terms. We struggled to get work done for people. Now, schemes have reached the doorstep of the common public. As an MP, I had struggled to get power to villages. But now, we have electrified 1.5 lakh habitations… Likewise has been the case of LPG connections… The Northeast used to face shutdowns called by separatists as governments would go soft. The first surgical strike struck at the backbone of such people. Northeast is now peaceful. Stone-pelters in Kashmir vanished after the second surgical strike. The way the terrorist camp was struck at Balakot after the Pulwama attack, Modi highlighted the strategic might of India on the world stage. So, the people of this country stand with Modi for his welfare initiatives, infrastructure development and the projection of India’s power at the world stage. People questioning the armed forces, and those who laid the foundation of corruption will get a befitting reply this election.
Both opposition parties, the SP and BSP, contested separately in 2014 and 2017, you cannot ignore their arithmetic now. What answer do you have for their alliance?
The SP and BSP contested in alliance in 1993. Even after 1993, the SP and BSP did not get a clear majority. The BJP emerged as the single largest party in 1993, the SP came second and the BSP was the third largest party. The SP and BSP got three opportunities to run the government after 1993. Their corruption and the anarchy and riots during their regimes troubled the common man. Apart from underdevelopment, it created a crisis of identity among the youth of the state. I have not seen enthusiasm among the public (over SP-BSP alliance). Media hyped the alliance, but the situation on the ground is something else. Workers and sympathisers of both the parties have been breathing down each others’ neck over the years. The standards applied to distribute 38 tickets (of BSP) is surprising. Their character and public perception does not need much to be elaborated. This alliance will not stand anywhere. There is a bigger wave for Modi in 2019 than 2014. The BJP will achieve the target of 74 plus (seats in UP) under the leadership of Modiji. I have no doubt about it.
There is about Rs 10,000 crore in sugarcane dues. Farmers will keep an eye on Balakot, Modi or sugarcane dues?
This is new UP. Rs 10,000 crore is not a big amount for UP. We have cleared Rs 57,000 crore worth of cane dues that were pending for the past five years. We have almost cleared the 2017-18 dues as well. We have cleared 56 per cent of the dues of the current season. Yes, the dues of 44 per cent remain. We have prepared a roadmap for it. This is happening for the first time that sugarcane farmers are getting their cane dues in the same year. Earlier, it used to remain pending for five-six years. We had to clear dues of six years when we came to power. Additionally, we have taken several steps to ease the pressure on cane farmers. We have also got a procurement policy in place for effective implementation of the MSP mechanism. We started with 37 lakh metric tonne of wheat procurement. It went up to 53 lakh tonne last year. We have set a target of 55 lakh tonne this year. We procured 42 lakh metric tonne of paddy in the first year, then procured 48 lakh tonne the next year. Money was transferred into their accounts within 72 hours. We also gave financial support for transportation and logistics per quintal basis.
But farmers are rattled as the Yogi government has denied them full night’s sleep. They are standing guard in their fields against cattle.
That is not true. Farmers are our annadata. While Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is for security against natural calamity, we have taken steps to guard against this kritrim aapda (artificial calamity). There are about four lakh cows sheltered in government-run shelters. This problem is created by the public. Yes, it is true that we banned illegal slaughterhouses. We built the cow shelters to protect unattended cattle which would stealthily end up in illegal slaughterhouses. Since we respect faith, we cannot allow cow progenies to be slaughtered. While preserving our faith, we have also tried to preserve cows. Now, we are working towards cow conservation. We have made funds available to each district for temporary shelters. This was an issue three months back, but it has been resolved now.
Apart from farmers and cattle, another issue that has hobbled your government is caste conflict that started early in your tenure with violence in Saharanpur. Impression has gone out that your government is ambivalent towards Dalits and Muslims.
People can make any kind of political remarks. In the June 2017 episode in Saharanpur (which witnessed Dalit-Thakur clashes), the government acted swiftly and stopped any major violence. Actions were taken against the accused without any discrimination. Both sides faced action. If our government was anti-Dalit, would we have constructed 23 lakh houses for the poor and Dalits? This is more than the houses built during the previous 10-year rule of SP and BSP. Toilets have been built for 2.5 crore poor and Dalit households. The previous SP government did not even disburse the SC/ST scholarship in 2016-17, the election year. When we came, we cleared grants for 44 lakh students for two years in one go. 25 lakh SC/ST students are getting scholarships and fee waiver annually now. We have taken these schemes to people without any discrimination. For example, about one crore farmers in UP benefited from the first installment of PM-KISAN scheme. Fifty lakh more farmers will benefit. So, about 1.5 crore small and marginal farmers will benefit in the first tranche. Farmers don’t have a caste. We have covered six crore people under Ayushmaan Bharat.
Those talking about Dalits and backwards should know that we have fully covered people from marginalised communities — bantangiya, mushahars, tharu, kol — under housing, food and pension schemes. We provide pension to 46 lakh poor elderly persons. We started a scheme for marriage of girls from poor families. These weddings are in the families of poor, dalits and deprived sections. Those who are accusing our government should be asked about western UP. When I campaigned in 2014 and 2017, every poor family was concerned about the safety and security of their girls. Acid attack, harassment of girls and other incidents that used to happen in western UP have vanished as our government has created a sense of security without any discrimination. There is no discrimination in my government. It is a government that believes in Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.
Your government is said to be a government of tokenism, change the names of places, build a statue of Ram. Such has been an impression that once a viral social media post said Yogi may rename Dollar as Rupee
If rupee creates an impression worldwide, it would be a matter of pride for all us. We have not changed any name. We have just reinstated their Pauranic names… How many people were aware about Faizabad worldwide? People around it may know, but Ayodhya is known worldwide. That district has now been named after Ayodhya. Prayagraj is Pauranic name. It became Allahabad in the intervening period, we have reinstated Prayagraj. We have just reinstated Pauranic names, have not changed any names. Kumbh at Prayagraj has been more magnificent than Kumbh at Allahabad earlier.
The change of names in the last two three years — Farah, Mughalsarai, Faizabad and Allahabad — have been Urdu-sounding names. It creates suspicion of some motive.
There is no such motive. We have only reinstated names to which the people can relate and derive pride.
But, UP has been known for its Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb?
Ganga-Jamuna Tehzeeb nahin, jahan Jamunaji Ganga mein milti hain wahan se Ganga hi ho jati hain. Alag-alah nadi nahin hoti hai. Aur wah pavitra teerth apna Sangam sthal hai. Ganga mein Gangotri se lekar Gangasagar tak anek nadi-nale milte hain, lekin who Ganga hi rehte hain. Yeh Bharatiya Sanskriti ka desh hai aur jo koi bhi iske saath milega wah Bharatiya parampara ke saath hi aage badh payega. (After Yamuna meets Ganga, it is known as Ganga only. They are not known separately. Several rivers and rivulets meet Ganga along its way from origin till the sea, but it is still known as Ganga. Ours is a nation of Indian culture and everything incorporated into it will move with the Indian culture only).
The charge of tokenism becomes stark as Yogiji does not act where it is needed. You made a committee regarding the sub-categorisation of OBCs. Its report is in. One of your ministers is crying publicly for its implementation. But, Yogiji has let it remain as it is.
I instituted that committee. The committee has not been able to make recommendations which can withstand the scrutiny of the court later. Their recommendations are identical to the recommendations made during the Rajnath Singh government. Naturally, such thing cannot stand for long in the court. Courts have set many rulings on this issue in the past, owing to which he have decided to constitute another committee to reexamine. We will see what can be done which is not only in the interest of the state but also in the interest of the poor and extremely backward in the future.