‘I Felt Like a Fish Out of Water in the SP’


Social activist Nafisa Ali tells Shobhita Naithani that she owes no explanation to the Samajwadi Party for returning to the Congress

Photo: Tarun Sehrawat

Why have you rejoined the Congress?
Because that’s my party.

Until last week you were part of the Samajwadi Party (SP).
No, I was in the SP for three weeks over the Assembly elections. I wrote to Sonia Gandhi after that and apologised.

Why do you say that your decision to join the SP was ‘a mistake’?
I took a step which, if I was rational and calm, I would never have taken. I went against my principles. I made a mistake because I didn’t have political backing and the support I needed at that time.

Did you join the SP because you wanted a seat at any cost?
It’s not about that. I wanted my voice to be heard. When Amar Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sanjay Dutt asked me to contest from Lucknow, I agreed because I have a long connection with Sunil Dutt. After it was over, I felt like a fish out of water. They are good friends, but politics is about your country.

Did you speak to Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav before your switch?
I don’t want to say ‘switched’ because I don’t think I ever belonged to the SP. I owe them no explanation. They owe me no explanation. UP needs serious intervention, activism and no caste politics.

So do you hold the SP responsible for caste politics?
The SP is too small a force to reckon with. To take on caste politics, the wisdom of people who represent all is required. It’s wrong to believe that one should only work for those who belong to their caste.

And the SP is doing that.
It’s not about the SP. Mayawati is doing the same.

What is wrong with the way the SP functions?
It’s not as if there’s something wrong. I wanted to do the right thing for my country, for UP, and for myself. I am not a SP person at heart. I was in an alien environment. I felt lost.

Amar Singh said that the switch “showed the uncertainty of your nature”.
I think I have always been upright. This is one mistake in life I publicly admit and apologise for.

After the election results you had said you were hopeful the SP might give you a position of importance within the party. Did you leave because that did not happen?
No. They did make offers, but I had zero interest.

In April 2009, you told TEHELKA, ‘Politics mein sab chalta hai. We should not take it seriously.” How seriously should the voters take this step of yours?
I don’t think I could have said that.

You did. It was in reference to the SP saying poaching you was revenge for Congress taking in SP rebels.
It happens in politics. Even Rita Bahuguna was an SP candidate. Many people do it. Pranab Mukherjee joined the NCP.

‘I have always been upright. Joining the SP is one mistake I publicly admit and apologise for’

Have you spoken to the SP leadership?
No. It is my decision to quit. They don’t own me. I didn’t join the party, so the question of resigning doesn’t arise.

Why do you say you did not join the party?
Because you have to become a member, pay a fee, get a photograph, get a number.

How were you contesting then?
I just contested.


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