Up against a formidable challenge of alliance candidate Afzal Ansari, who has constituency’s caste arithmetic on his side, Union Minister of State, Communications and Railways, Manoj Sinha tells Namita Bajpai that he is confident that people’s love would keep him on the winning podium in Ghazipur. Excerpts...
You are known as a development man. But it’s caste politics that dominates development politics in UP. The caste arithmetic is against you after the SP-BSP alliance.
This time you will see that development politics dominates caste politics. I can feel that Ghazipur would not only break caste moorings, but party boundaries are also being breached. I have a long political career and fought many elections, but haven’t seen such an election. Now, the party and me as a candidate have taken a back seat and Ghazipur’s janata is fighting the election on my behalf.
Opposition is targeting the Modi government on issues like GST, unemployment and demonetization. Will it work?
Let me take these issues one by one. About GST, traders were no doubt apprehensive in the beginning but the way the GST council has simplified the taxes... the community is now fully satisfied. As far as demonetisation is concerned, people of UP have already overwhelmingly endorsed the decision in 2017 elections. Now, it’s a non-issue. And I would like to make a couple of points about all the talks about dipping employment opportunities. See the investment on infrastructure development —transport, power, ports, airports, Bharat Mala Sagarmala, etc — has gone up about 2.5 to 3 times. Hasn’t it generated a huge volume of employment? PM Mudra Yojana has distributed loan among nine crore beneficiaries. Isn’t it employment? Besides, skill development has been institutionalised and is generating a huge volume of employment.
Two more issues which are dominating the Opposition discourse are stray cattle menace and farmers distress.
Farmers distress is not such an issue which has cropped up in the past five years. It’s true that the input cost has increased and farmers are not getting the return. But in the past five years, the government has taken lots of steps. Urea and DAP have been made available. Besides their prices have been lowered. Huge number of soil health cards have been distributed to help farmers enhance the yield. Mandis have been linked to help them sell their produce directly to markets and also they are being given `6,000 under Kissan Samman Nidhi. Cattle menace was an issue for a brief period. But the state government has taken quick action...
Your party is accused of sticking to nationalism narrative for diverting people’s attention
If our 40 CRPF jawans were killed, what option did the government have? Shouldn’t it have taken retaliatory measure? When action was taken, peope started asking for proof. Therefore, proof had to be given. The issue is being politicised by those who are asking repeated questions about air strikes. “Maatam Pakistan mein ho raha hai toh yeh log kyon dukhi ho rahe hain?” (If people in Pakistan are mourning, why these people (Opposition) are feeling sorry?
Will Congress’s NYAY scheme have a traction?
People of this country don’t trust what Rahul Gandhi says. He is taken very lightly. Four generations of Congress and Gandhi family have just given ‘garibi hatao’ slogan but there has been no impact on poverty. People think Rahul is using such lollipops to woo voters, just the way he has done it in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Now people of these states are accusing him of false promises.
Will Priyanka Gandhi’s campaign have an impact on UP poll results ?
Congress is a non-entity in East UP, barring two seats which belong to the family.
Priyanka herself has said Congress is fighting to cut into BJP’s votes to defeat it.