‘June 4 will be day of freedom; BJP to get final farewell, INDIA bloc & SP’s PDA will prevail’ | India News

SP chief and leader of Opposition in UP Assembly, Akhilesh Yadav, is leading a spirited campaign for INDIA Bloc in the ongoing LS elections. Amid a hectic campaigning schedule, he spoke to Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui about his PDA plank, tie-up with Congress and prospects of Opposition parties. Excerpts…

In your election speeches, you say INDIA bloc will win all 80 seats in UP. What is the assessment of your election war room?

In these elections, BJP will be given the final farewell. When results will be announced on June 4, it will be a day of freedom for many. June 5 INDIA bloc and Samajwadi Party’s PDA bouquet will prevail. It will be a historical day and a day of celebrations for all.

You have always maintained that your political aspirations were limited to UP itself and that you don’t aspire for national politics. Has that changed now?

It’s the same. Lucknow is Lucknow. Who would like to leave Sheher-e- Lucknow? (Pauses)…One can always fly to Delhi and come back to Lucknow.(Smiles)

Is the present SP-Congress alliance much more cohesive and bonded as compared to the 2017 tie-up between the two?

Having entered into and walked out of quite a few alliances in the recent past, we have had experiences which have helped us to handle alliances better now. Also, the INDIA alliance leaders have held several meetings and long discussions which has helped us bond better.

What are the two factors that have worked the most for the INDIA bloc in terms of catching the attention of the electorate?

It sounds a bit unparliamentary but their (BJP’s) “jhooth” (lies) has worked the most. On top of it, their performance was zero. They have little political credibility left. For the past 10 years, BJP has been heading the government at the Centre. Add 7 years of UP government to it. The promises they made in 17 years of governance turned out to be false and so did their claims. Much hype was built around investors’ meet and Defence Expo. Right from the Prime Minister to ministers in states showcased it. But there is nothing on the ground. Even schemes like ODOP (One District One Product) have failed to make any headway. All the focus of the government was on publicity. People don’t want naam wali sarkar, people want kaam wali sarkar (People don’t want a government for namesake. They want one that delivers).

Where did this idea of PDA – Pichhade (Backward classes), Dalits and Alpsankhyak (Minorities) — come from?

Samajwadi Party has always tried to expand its family in order to take on the BJP in the present context. They (BJP/BSP) had attributed their electoral success to “social engineering”. This concept has been the crux of socialist ideologue Ram Manohar Lohia’s call for “social justice” and Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) spent his lifetime for the cause. It is just that Samajwadi Party has now gone back to its roots with a more defined approach in the form of PDA which stands for Pichhade (Backward classes), Dalits and Alpsankhyak (Minorities) and also for Peedit (exploited), Dukhi (distressed), Agade (upper caste) and Aadhi Abadi (women). The idea behind PDA is to bring everyone together. There is another dimension to it. The letter P in PDA’s also stands for Progressive while the letter N in NDA (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) denotes “negativity”. As for the acronym PDA, it was coined for phonetic effect and meant to “clash” with BJP’s NDA and it did. Also the more important underlying message here was that INDIA bloc was a larger alliance (national level) and PDA is our party’s own bouquet of like-minded masses who had similar aspirations and needs.

In your 2019 interview with TOI you said SP’s quest for the right “glue” led to an alliance with the BSP then. You think PDA is the right glue?

Yes. PDA is definitely the right glue.

You think PDA’s target audience has been all ears to you?

Yes they have been. People are fed up with ‘Mann ki Baat’ (PM’s radio programme). They want the government to listen to the Constitution instead.

You were one of the first to say that BJP is looking to win 400 seats because they want to change the Constitution. Where did that come from?

People have seen through how the BJP government has gone against the Constitutional provisions. For instance, privatisation of airports. Imagine the extent to which backward classes and dalits will be deprived of reservation in these jobs. Another example is that of JNU and BHU. In both these universities, the percentage of employees from the PDA bracket is less than 15 per cent. Is there any reservation in class three, class four jobs that the government has outsourced? Is there any reservation in appointment of IAS and IPS officers through lateral entry? The most important part is that such decisions have eroded people’s trust and faith in the BJP government. Despite all this, the PM claims that he will protect the Constitution, and the BJP wants people to believe him.

In a never-before shift of strategy, the SP has fielded only five Yadavs and five Muslim candidates in these elections. Why?

This strategy is based on my experience of 25 years in politics. At the risk of sounding boastful I am saying this but I don’t think there is a leader around who has toured across the length and breadth of UP as extensively as we have. No other leader has shaken as many hands with party workers, got photographs clicked with them, interacted with them on one to one basis. I had put my foot on the ground.

Were there apprehensions of a possible backlash if the Yadavs and Muslims did not understand your strategy behind not fielding their caste / community candidates in appropriate numbers?

There was no such apprehension ever. People, including the segment that you are referring to, along with Dalits and backward classes are much smarter and more intelligent than what one may choose to believe. Ye Dilli-Lucknow wale daraane ka kaam karte hain (referring to the PM and CM). People have seen how they (BJP) operate. There were instances when questions were raised over our silence on specific issues. We deliberately kept mum because we wanted to politically protect those at the receiving end. It was my own resolve from day one to politically protect them. There were some swarthi (selfish) politicians who wanted to brand me in a certain way from the very beginning but they couldn’t.

There is a perception that BJP gets more support from women than other parties, be it because of improved law and order, free ration or free gas connections.

Whose perception is that? Has this perception stemmed from the recent Nari Shakti Sammelan organized in Varanasi? (addressed by PM). What about the BJP government’s handling of the Manipur incident where our sisters were disrespected. In Varanasi itself, protesting BHU girl students of women’s hostels were manhandled by police. Crime against women and children is on the rise in UP. Real power of women in every family will come when they have money in their bank accounts. The INDIA bloc government will annually transfer Rs 1 lakh to a woman in every poor family, which will be around Rs 8500 per month. This will actually strengthen a woman’s position in every family. This perception that BJP gets the support of women is like the perception that the BJP government has kept the Indian borders secure.

Are you saying that our Indian borders are not as secure?

If that is the case then why is no one talking about why and how Rezang-la memorial was razed. That memorial was built to remember and salute the valour of a little over 100 Indian soldiers of Kumaon regiment who fought till the proverbial ‘last man, last round’ inflicting over 1,000 casualties on the enemy side. Why is there no word on it? And this is just one issue.

SP’s alliance partners in 2022 assembly polls like RLD, SBSP and leaders like Swami Prasad Maurya and Dara Singh Singh Chauhan are not with you now. You think their presence would have added to INDIA bloc’s position?

Let bygones be bygones. There is no point discussing ifs and buts.

This is the first election after Mulayam’s demise, how different is it to handle the poll strategy, selection of candidates, poll issues in the absence of expert advice from him?

Netaji’s (Mulayam Singh Yadav) absence will always be felt. But we are treading the path that he has shown. Whatever I have learnt from him, I put to use in life and in politics. What I have learnt from him in politics will always be treasured by me.

Your daughter Aditi, a student of international politics, campaigned for mother Dimple Yadav. Is she too planning to step into active politics?

I wanted her to have first-hand experience of how raw things are on ground in politics. One gets a sense of how people in rural areas work in sweltering heat. It started with her going door-to-door meeting people in villages and interaction with small groups of women. But soon more and more people started turning up.

How do you explain the flip-flop on fielding candidates? Candidates were changed on at least 10 seats.

In quite a few instances the change of candidates was a part of our party’s counter strategy to counter BJP’s constituency specific moves. In some cases it was done to accommodate the demand of the local leaders and workers after due consultation and consent of the person being replaced.

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