Lucknow: Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati are busy finalising their candidates for the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. They’re preparing a joint campaign that will make them virtually look like one party. The two leaders will address one mega rally in every phase of the seven phases in which UP will decide its MPs. Amidst the preparation, Yadav spoke to ThePrint. Edited excerpts:
Your ally Mayawati must be unhappy that Priyanka Gandhi is propping up another Dalit leader in the state, Chandrashekhar Ravan, who is likely to contest from the Varanasi seat against the PM?
Look at the last five years. Look at what the media has been doing, what the opposition is saying and what the BJP wants. The country wants to remove the Modi government but the Congress only wants to strengthen itself.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have both sacrificed their interests in 40 seats. The SP-BSP alliance began with by-elections where we defeated the BJP on the BJP chief minister’s turf in Gorakhpur.
The BSP cadre supported us and helped us win three Lok Sabha bypolls. It helped us build coordination between our organisations. So the preparation for the alliance was all done. The Congress instead put up its own candidates in the bypolls. After all of this, if the Congress wants to be part of the gatbandhan, how is it possible?
You have left two seats for the Congress…
We haven’t left two seats for them. We are taking them together on two seats. The language is important for me. They are also part of it with two seats.
The Congress could have been happy with 8-10 seats. Are you saying the Congress is not a force outside Amethi and Rae Bareli?
How could we have given 8-10 seats? When we were sealing our alliance the Congress was busy celebrating its victories in three states.
We supported them in forming the government in Madhya Pradesh. They made us promises but today may deny they ever made those promises. When Congress wanted our co-operation, we said we have only one MLA, please make him happy. They assured us they will make him a minister.
They made a promise to him as well. He was their man. When they contacted him, he said he had won from an SP ticket so he will do what the SP says. He called me up, he came to Lucknow. Then I spoke to their senior leaders. They assured that they will make him a minister but they did not.
They (BJP) accused us of casteism but today everyone can see the reality… Look at all their recruitment and you will see the hollowness of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’.
Just because you didn’t get a minister in Madhya Pradesh you didn’t ally with the Congress?
That’s not the point. They promised something. They could have told us they can’t make him a minister. We are not greedy for ministership. I won’t say what gifts the Congress has given them. Should I say that? No, I won’t say that.
But tomorrow if they accuse me of being greedy, of wanting one minister from my party in their government, I will ask what gifts did you give him? My point is that when we have been friends, you needed to show us respect. What would he have done if he had become a minister? They feel if he becomes a minister, it will help the Samajwadi Party grow in MP.
So your payback is to not let the Congress grow in UP?
No, that’s not the point. As I said, the SP-BSP alliance has been in the works for a long time. You can’t decide seat-sharing in a big state like UP overnight.
On a seat like Kanpur, where the contest is essentially between the Congress and the BJP, you could have given the seat to the Congress?
No, we have MLAs in Kanpur. We will fight the seat to win.
All the conversation seems to be about alliance-making and caste arithmetic. What exactly are you offering the electorate?
People know what the Samajwadi Party has done for them. They can now compare our performance with that of the BJP’s. Just look at Lucknow, Kanpur, Noida, Bahraich, Varanasi or Jhansi — and I’m naming cities recently visited by the prime minister — people in these places and elsewhere will compare the work done by us and the poor performance by the BJP.
How can you compare the state government’s performance with the central government’s work?
Why? We built roads, the NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) does the same. Why didn’t they give good roads to UP? We made an expressway, why didn’t Gadkari saheb (Union Minister for Roads and Transport) build one in UP? Why didn’t they give another IIM here or a Sainik school, and where is the promised AIIMS? They couldn’t spare budgets for AIIMS but we built 2-3 medical colleges as good as that. They’ve only destroyed UP’s export houses, shut down tanneries.
He (Mulayam Singh Yadav) blessed Manmohan Singh too but he didn’t return. I know how Netaji’s blessings work!
Even if all your candidates win, and the BSP’s too, how will you form or influence the government at the centre? What will be its policies, who will be PM, will you have ministers?
Everything will come. The government will be formed not just with SP and BSP but other regional parties too. Look at Mamataji. She has already been giving income support to farmers that the BJP is now copying. KCR has been giving farmers more money than Modi is even promising.
Look at the Ganga cleaning mission. It is going nowhere. But we cleaned up the Gomti river.
But how will you form a coalition government when you are already bickering with the Congress?
There is no bickering. We have taken Congress together in two seats.
In 2017, Rahul Gandhi and you were projected as brothers. Now you seem to be estranged.
2017 was a state election. Circumstances have changed. The Congress has chosen its own path. After the Madhya Pradesh election, when I made it clear the Congress was not a part of our seat-sharing negotiations in UP, I thanked them. I thanked them that they didn’t consider the Samajwadi Party worth being taken along with its new government in MP.
What message would you give to the Congress at this juncture?
What message can I give them? They are a large national party. We have almost no presence outside UP. Not many people outside UP know us. But maybe we have some relevance in UP. We can’t say much to the Congress but let me still say that they should respect every alliance. If they really want to stop the BJP, the SP-BSP is doing very well in UP. They should co-operate with us in doing so. And they should concentrate on defeating the BJP in other states.
Do you support Mayawati for PM?
UP has always given the country its PM. If that happens again I will be very happy.
You mean Modi from Varanasi?
He did once but may not get another term. The country wants a new PM now.
So, Rahul Gandhi from Amethi?
The country wants a new PM.
The BJP says the SP-BSP alliance of bua and babua have come together in admission of weakness.
The BJP itself is running a coalition at both the centre and the state. They know they formed the government by lying to the electorate, by fomenting acrimony between caste groups and hatred between religious groups. Why are they happy with five seats in Tamil Nadu if they are strong by themselves? Just look at how much time they are spending in Delhi in appeasing their UP alliance partners Om Prakash Rajbhar and Anupriya Patel. Why have they given up five sitting seats in Bihar for the JD(U)?
How could we have given (Congress) 8-10 seats? When we were sealing our alliance, Congress was busy celebrating its victories in three states.
Non-Yadav OBCs have largely been with the BJP in 2014 and 2017. Are you able to attract them?
They have already come with us because of the BJP’s casteism. They (BJP) accused us of casteism but today everyone can see the reality. They took the votes of backward communities but they can’t appoint one university professor from the communities. Look at police recruitment, they have changed reservation policies to make sure fewer people from among the backwards are recruited. 1,700 such young boys lost their jobs. They came to meet me. Look at all their recruitment and you will see the hollowness of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’.
They used to say that police stations are full of Yadavs, which was never true, but now who’s dominating the police stations?
Your father Mulayam Singh Yadav has blessed Narendra Modi for a second term.
He blessed Manmohan Singh too but he didn’t return. I know how Netaji’s blessings work!
So you deliberately made Netaji bless Modi to make sure he loses?
You will see what happens. Who would know better than me how Netaji’s blessings work?
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.