Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is certain that the NDA will be back in power with 300-plus seats will be faster once the elections are over. Excerpts from his interview with Namita Bajpai.
Now that the Lok Sabha elections are in the last leg, do you see the NDA getting a second term at the Centre?
We will not only get a second term but will get it with a bigger majority.
Since you are among the BJP’s star campaigners, what is your assessment about the number of seats the NDA can seal?
The BJP on its own is going to win 300-plus seats at the national level. In Uttar Pradesh, we will get more than 74 seats. We will increase our tally in the state. It will not come down.
How big a challenge is the SP-BSP alliance with the caste arithmetic seemingly giving them an advantage in a majority of seats in UP?
People of new India and new Uttar Pradesh are no longer slaves to their caste. Its shackles have been broken. There are bigger issues like development and nationalism. People are voting for a strong and robust leadership provided by PM Narendra Modi.
People have realised that Modiji has given them toilets, pucca houses, electricity and gas connections, among other benefits, without asking for their caste or religion. He has gone by the idea of Sabka Saath, Sabkaa Vikas with all sincerity. So they are voting for development — transcending the barriers of caste and religion. I found there was big traction for these issues across UP and in every state I have been to.
In this election, the menace of stray cattle gained ground prominently and the problem was mainly attributed to your policy against slaughterhouses. How will you address it?
First, the decision of my government was to ban illegal slaughterhouses. My question to Opposition parties is how stopping something, which is in violation of law can be wrong? Slaughterhouses were closed because they were running in violation of NGT norms and Supreme Court order.
They were not closed down with any ill intention. It was all a manufactured problem. We have information that Opposition parties were behind creating trouble over imagined cattle menace. We have dealt with it effectively. My government has created shelter homes for our govansh (bovine population) on a large scale in each district. Now, it’s no more an issue.
How do you look at the impression Opposition leaders, including Chandrababu Naidu, K Chandrashekhar Rao and now Sonia Gandhi, are trying to send across India by inviting various parties for joint confabulations even as people are voting in the last phase?
They have nothing much to do, so they are desperately trying to create a fake perception. At best, it’s an exercise in futility.
Why did the party field Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan from a prestigious seat like Gorakhpur when everyone was expecting that Praveen Nishad, the sitting MP, would be fielded after NISHAD (Nirbal Indian Shoshit Humara Aam Dal) headed by his father Sanjay Nishad came with BJP?
I believe that every section of society—people from the realms of social service, literature, sports and entertainment etc — must get representation in Parliament. Artistes like Ravi Kishan don’t belong to a particular seat or constituency. Very few people are aware which place he is from...that’s the strength of universal appeal such artists have. Going by his connect with the people, he can’t be an outsider in any constituency.
As for Praveen Nishad, he has been given ticket from an equally prestigious seat, which is just adjacent to Gorakhpur and where he has influence. He will do equally well with a thumping victory. You spearheaded a major part of the BJP’s campaign in West Bengal. How do you evaluate the party’s prospects in the Mamata Banerjee-ruled state?
You will see unexpected results from Bengal. People in the state are living under the tyrannical rule of Trinamool and want to teach it a lesson. Our partymen have been the targets of violent crimes. Mamata Banerjee has been denying permission to BJP leaders, including me, to land in the state. We just saw the kind of violence Trinamool cadres perpetrated during Amit Shah ji’s rally in Kolkata. People of West Bengal have decided to teach Mamta Didi a lesson in 2019. And our tally will go up substantially in Bengal.
The Opposition has rejected the BJP campaign based on nationalism. They call it a tool to divert attention from real issues, including farmer’s distress and stray cattle. Your comments?
I want to ask rival parties, aren’t they proud of the achievements of our Army? Why do they shed copious tears when our Air Force strikes on terror camps in Pakistan and only clamour for proof? The Army and the Air Force, of course, execute such strikes, but is it possible without a strong government to back it? Pakistan got a befitting reply to its dastardly designs with the valour of Indian Armed Forces and resoluteness of the Modi government.
Don’t you think the discourse of this election was more focused on personal vitriolic attacks rather than real issues?
We have based our campaign on development. But when there is a personal attack, we can’t sit back and allow our rivals to have a free run.
While BSP chief Mayawati has come out openly with her prime ministerial ambitions and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav is backing her vociferously for the top post, do you think she has a pan India appeal?
How many Lok Sabha seats has BSP won in UP? And its vote share, too, is on the decline across India. Let the results come, all these people will realise where they stand.
People feel that while you have been able to implement central welfare schemes efficiently during the last two years, you are expected to do more to bring about the impact of state schemes as well with 2022 Assembly elections round the corner?
Today Uttar Pradesh ranks among top performers in most of the central schemes, be it the construction of toilets, houses for poor, taking electricity to every household, or ensuring ration under PDS. We have checked corruption at every level and you can see its impact in the huge rise in state revenue through an increase in collection from mining, excise and GST. You will be surprised to know that state earnings through mining have increased three times and through excise, it is more than double.
Babua (SP chief Akhilesh Yadav) was looting this public money through his laptop. While we implemented Central schemes effectively, it’s not that state schemes had taken a back seat. We are among the best performers in implementing government schemes, be it central or state. You will see the pace of implementation of our schemes once the code of conduct is lifted after May 27.