BJP candidate for Rampur, Jaya Prada, is all set to take on SP strongman Azam Khan on his home turf. She told Express that people of Rampur will ensure her victory. Excerpts
You are back in Rampur after representing it twice in Lok Sabha. Is it different this time?
I am feeling great to be back in this city which accorded me an opportunity to represent it twice in Parliament. People of Rampur are giving me the same love and respect which they had given me in the past. It is always a matter of honour to be in Rampur.
Your nearest rival is Azam Khan and Rampur is his own turf. How formidable is this challenge for you?
I love to be challenged. I am known to take the challenges head on and my efforts are based on my belief in God, the love of my people, my stamina and the positive energy which I get from the people of Rampur. This is the fight of the people of Rampur and they would win it for me.
In the past, Azam Khan made unpleasant statements about you. What has been his tenor now?
I strongly believe that I was targeted because he thought women are inferior to men. I believe in God. He does justice. There should be no gender bias when we are challenging each other in the battleground. But this happens everywhere because we have a male-dominated society. It is a common thought that women can’t handle anything alone be it the corporate sector or the political arena. But in my case, I am not alone. People of my constituency are with me and now no can harm me.
After being with the Samajwadi Party for this long, what made you join the BJP?
I am impressed by the development agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modiji and the way he is implementing it not only in UP but across the country. His spirit to serve the nation inspired me and I joined this party. I am grateful to the senior leadership of the party to make me a part of this family.
Why should people of Rampur vote for you?
They will vote for me because I have a personal connection with them. I have been an active part of their lives all these years. During festivals – be it Eid, Holi or Diwali — I used to leave my home and be with my people as my family here in Rampur. Moreover, I am aware of the issues of the people here even those living in villages in Rampur.
Do you think Priyanka Gandhi's entry will be a game changer for Congress in UP?
I respect Priyankaji a lot. But she had restricted herself only to two constituencies—Rae Bareli of her mother and Amethi of Rahul Gandhi. Otherwise, she had been a homemaker. When she was introduced to active politics and made UP in-charge, elections were already round the corner. So, very little time was there for her to show her magic.
What are the real issues in this election?
Development is the biggest issue. PM Modi stands out as a ‘Vikas Purush’ who has worked for people of all sections and all ages across the country. He has shown his commitment for ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.’ His development model, the decisiveness of his government and better execution are the highlights of his tenure.
Don’t you think anti-incumbency of 5 years, unemployment and farmers’ distress are main challenges for the BJP in the elections?
People are generally happy even in the villages. Modi government’s welfare schemes like Ujjawala, toilets, house for all and move of transferring Rs 2000 thrice a year directly to the bank accounts of the farmers have left an impact on people. People feel only Modiji is capable of mitigating their problems.
There has been marked difference in performance of Congress rule and BJP regime on a number of counts. People in villages have very limited needs—Sadak, Paani and Bijli—and NDA government has delivered all that more effectively than the UPA regime. Even the women folk are also happy. They feel more secure now; newer avenues are there for them.
But Opposition is making unemployment as the major issue in this election?
Unemployment has always been an issue in all the elections in India. I think the government led by Modiji has done a lot on this account. The government has created a lot of jobs in government sector and also in private sector. An all round growth of the country, which we have seen under this regime, is not possible without growth in jobs.
BJP comes under Opposition attack for allegedly politicising army after Balakot airstrike?
This government has shown the will to handle terrorism differently which was missing all this long. This is what appeals to the people. National security and nationalism should be an issue for all of us. Why not? Rather the opposition should not question everything every time.
People say the communal divide has widened during Modi regime? Do you feel so while being in Rampur?
No. People are showering their love in abundance. There has been no communal flare up during the last five years. Western UP had witnessed harrowing and unfortunate riots in 2013 which claimed so many lives and pushed so many families out their houses to migrate to other places. Did any such thing happen during last five years?