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‘If we don’t build temples, who will?’ UP minister wants to develop Mathura on PM’s Kashi model

UP Power Minister & Mathura MLA Shrikant Sharma says cultural nationalism is BJP's ideological commitment, but focus is on development. Also details success in power sector.

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Mathura: Cultural nationalism is an ideological commitment for the BJP, but the central theme of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections is development, according to Shrikant Sharma, the state’s power minister, who is seeking re-election from the Mathura assembly seat.

Speaking to ThePrint, Sharma listed out various achievements of the BJP state government over the past five years, and claimed that UP is now known for improvements in electricity supply, infrastructure, and the law-and-order system.

The minister added that developing Mathura “on the basis of the Kashi model” was high on the BJP’s agenda. The “Kashi model” is a reference to Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency in UP, which the PM has described as an exemplar of development that also promotes religious and cultural heritage.

Also Read: Potato prices crash, living costs rise, farmers distressed. But most Mathura voters forgive BJP

‘Have to focus on development and ideological commitment’

According to Shrikant Sharma, the BJP’s central theme in the UP election is summed up in the slogan “Sabka saath, sabka vikaas, sabka vishwaas (everyone’s support, everyone’s development, everyone’s trust)”, but emphasised that this principle goes hand-in-hand with cultural nationalism.

“We are Sanatani (belonging to the Sanatan Dharma and thus dutiful, as defined in sacred Indian texts). If we do not make temples, who else will? But when the Sanatani are in power, they do not do politics of the 20 percent or 80 percent [of the population]. In our schemes, everyone is getting electricity, vaccines, ration, Ayushman Bharat cards,” Sharma said.

If he is re-elected in Mathura, which is famous as the birthplace of Lord Krishna, Sharma said he will follow the “Kashi Model” and develop religious sites as well as infrastructure.

“Our PM has given the Kashi model. We will develop Mathura on the basis of the Kashi model. We will develop Banke Bihari Ji Temple’s garbhgriha (sanctum sanctorum) with grandeur. Cleansing the (river) Yamuna ji is also our priority. We have to focus on both development and ideological commitment,” the minister said.

‘We halved the power tariff’

The power minister drew attention to the 50 per cent reduction in the agricultural power tariff in UP, which was announced in the first week of January this year.

“We halved the power tariff for farmers. Earlier, farmers had to pay Rs 170 per HP (horsepower), but now they have to pay only Rs 84 per HP. Earlier there was no regular supply — farmers used to reach the farm in winter and the electricity would disappear. Then they would spend the whole night in the cold waiting for electricity. Now we have ensured regular electricity for 10 hours, especially for the farmers, from 7am to 5pm,” Sharma said.

He also took a dig at the previous Samajwadi Party government in the state. “The Akhilesh Yadav government had increased the tariff by 61 per cent. We have increased the supply of electricity in rural areas by 54 per cent,” the minister claimed. “We are trying to fulfil the dreams that Chaudhary Charan Singh and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya saw for farmers and labourers. We are also making efforts to double the farmers’ incomes.”

According to Sharma, all 75 districts in UP are now being supplied equally with electricity, alleging that previous governments seemed to favour “only four districts”.

Sharma credited PM Narendra Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath for developing the state, adding: “UP is a surplus power state. In the coming two years, we will work on developing better electricity infrastructure and target for 24 hours of electricity.”

Yeh sirf trailer hai, picture abhi baaki hai

Asked about the BJP’s social media campaign, which seems polarising in nature, Sharma said the party could not be blamed for such perceptions.

“Who posts what on social media is not in our hands. But yes, the public must be reminded what used to happen during the previous governments. Women used to say, jis gaadi mein hai lal jhanda, usmei baitha SP ka goonda (a car that has a red flag has a goonda of the SP in it). We did not say this, this was a perception in the state,” Sharma said, adding that the law and order situation has improved drastically in UP.

“Earlier at 8pm, there used to be a curfew-like situation in UP. Now people travel freely, women and businessmen are safe,” Sharma said.

When queried about BJP leaders who have criminal records, Sharma said: “If someone has any objection, they can go to the court. There is a law-and-order system in the country.”

On the defections of cabinet ministers like Swami Prasad Maurya and Dara Singh Chauhan, who joined the Samajwadi Party this January, Sharma said he could not comment on those who have left.

“Many people are also coming to the BJP. We are committed to the development of the state and the citizens of UP have made up their minds that they want PM Modi and Yogi Adityanath’s government,” Sharma said. “Yeh sirf trailer hai, picture abhi baaki hai (This is just the trailer, the film is yet to come).”

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

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