Edited Excerpts from an interview
Can the SP win enough seats from UP to emerge as a formidable player in post-election politics?
The party has set a target of winning 60 seats. However, we are confident of winning more seats in the state. The SP will have the largest contingent of MPs from UP, which has 80 seats in total. In the Lok Sabha polls, the party will perform better than it did in the Assembly polls. The previous Mayawati government looted the state exchequer and public money was wasted in building myriad parks and memorials. Our government, on the other hand, used public money for the welfare and upliftment of all sections of society. The people in the state will reward our party and the government for the good work done by us.
Who is the SP’s main rival in the 2014 Election?
It is the BJP. The SP will bag the maximum number of seats, followed by the BJP.
Is the BJP your main rival because of the polarisation that UP has seen in the past two years — over 100 communal riots and the controversy over the SP government’s decision to withdraw cases of terrorism and anti national activities against Muslim youth?
It is absolute rubbish that 100 communal riots happened in UP. Petty disputes in small towns and villages involving two different communities cannot be termed as a communal riot. The riot in Muzaffarnagar was unfortunate. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav expressed his regrets over the riots where precious lives were lost.
As far as withdrawing cases against Muslim youth is concerned, there was no political motive. The previous BJP and the BSP governments had also released many persons facing charges. Moreover it’s not the job of the government to release the accused. It’s the job of the court to decide, the government can only make a proposal before the court and law will take its own course.
Poll surveys suggest that the SP might have a bad show at the Lok Sabha Election…
We do not go by poll surveys. We are a party of the masses and believe in working among the people at the grassroots level. Moreover, our cadres are continuously in touch with the masses to redress their grievances. Most surveys are sponsored by the business houses and have little credibility. The media itself has exposed the reality of the pre-poll surveys, where it was shown that if you have deep pockets, then you can get surveys tailor-made.
How would you explain the rise of Narendra Modi and the BJP in the state, and the fact that the two-year-old SP government faces ant-incumbency?
Narendra Modi will not help the BJP much in UP. Intense factional fight in the BJP over ticket distribution in UP and in many other states has proved that the people cannot trust this party to rule. The humiliation heaped on top BJP leaders like LK Advani, Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and many others has exposed the tall claims made by Modi in his rallies across the country.
In fact, Modi’s rise in UP and elsewhere, as projected by the media, has helped us to consolidate our base vote. In the 2009 General Election, the SP had won only one seat in the first phase of elections. This time, the SP will win most of the 10 seats going to polls in the first phase on 10 April. We will win Muzaffarnagar, Kairana, Bijnor, Nagina, Moradabad, Gautam Buddh Nagar, and Ghaziabad. This has all been made possible by the emergence of the Modi factor in Uttar Pradesh.
Will factionalism within the BJP counter the anti-incumbency faced by the SP?
We are going to the polls with the confidence of winning the maximum number of seats and improving our tally since 2009. It is a misinformation spread by SP’s detractors that there were over 100 riots during the past two years of our regime. Big communal disturbances occurred only at few places like Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Bareilly and Ghaziabad and were promptly brought under control. The riots were deliberately engineered by the BJP, as communal hatred is its bread and butter. It is erroneous to suggest that the people of Muzaffarnagar have turned against the SP after the riots. The riots were immediately brought under control and the state government launched a relief and rehabilitation operation on a massive scale.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Muslims in UP deserted your party after the SP joined hands with former BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh. All the Muslim candidates of the SP lost the polls. In 2014, are the Muslims looking for a viable alternative?
The Muslims of UP are well aware of the fact that only the SP can stop the BJP in its march to power at the Centre. For preventing the BJP from coming to power, the SP had extended unconditional outside support to the UPA government for the past 10 years. The Muslims of UP know that only the SP can stop the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Kalyan Singh is no longer a factor for us. We lost in 2009 due to association with him, but in 2014, we will certainly gain.
The issues of multiple centres of power in the government refuse to fade away and you are seen as a parallel power centre in the state government. How would you respond to that claim?
It is a media creation; there are no centres of power. There is only one power centre and that is the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. He has a free hand in running the affairs of the government and exercising his discretion in taking decisions. Netaji is the guardian of the party and he periodically gives suggestions to the chief minister in the interest of the people and governance. Since I am a minister in the government, I too give my suggestions to the CM. I would not have done this had I not been a minister in the government.