The BJP will win more than 350 seats in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has told News18.com in an exclusive interview, adding that he sees no one as a challenge since the work done by his government for the state and the people gives him confidence.
Taking on Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Yogi Adityanath said the Opposition was attempting polarisation before polls by invoking Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He added that "election tourism" by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra won't help Congress either. The CM further said that no one was being shielded in the Lakhimpur Kheri case.
How big is the challenge for the BJP in the upcoming UP elections? Your party is claiming it will cross 300 seats again. What is the reason for this confidence as no party has been able to come back to power for a second successive term in the state for long?
The BJP will cross 350 seats (out of 403 seats), and there should be no doubt about this as our government has fulfilled every promise mentioned in the Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra in 2017. Prior to 2017, Uttar Pradesh was considered a ‘Bimaru’ state, but now it is known for development across sectors. For the past four-and-a-half years, our government has worked for the betterment of the state and its 24 crore citizens. The work we have done for our state and our people is what gives us confidence. We have ensured the welfare of farmers, women, and the poorest of the poor in the state. In 2017 itself, we had waived farm loans worth Rs 36,000 crore via the waiver scheme, which benefitted around 21 million farmers. UP will further play a pivotal role in making India a global economic superpower.
Who is your biggest challenger in your view? The Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, or the Congress? SP says it is the main challenge…
We see no one as a challenge.
So what is your biggest poll plank? Is it development, law, and order, or investments? Do you think UP's image has improved in your term on these counts?
Since 2017, we have focused on ‘Reform, Perform and Transform’ which has led to change in perception of the state both nationally and globally. The stable law and order in the state have helped us gain the confidence of industrialists and investors. The government has a stringent law to check crime syndicates who previously harassed industrialists. This has and will ensure a positive environment for businesses to thrive in the state and this is the reason global brands like Samsung, Reliance, and Microsoft, among others, are setting up industries in the state.
The state has further attracted record investment of almost Rs 11 lakh crore across sectors, out of which almost Rs 5 lakh crore is in the heavy industries and another Rs 5 lakh crore in the MSME sector, thus ensuring jobs for more than 3 million youth in the state.
Akhilesh Yadav has criticised your usage of bulldozers and launched many personal attacks against you.
We have used bulldozers against the corrupt, criminals, and gangsters. If Akhilesh Yadav has a problem with the bulldozer, then it signifies his interest in and sympathy for criminals and gangsters who have been harassing the poor for years. The previous government had different priorities and was always supporting mafias to save their chair, which resulted in the harassment of the poor, industrialists, and businessmen with the result being that no fresh investments were coming, per capita income was the lowest, growth rate was poor and the unemployment rate was high.
We have turned the situation 360 degrees (complete transformation) and things are different now as we have taken tough action against the mafias and are following the 'zero-tolerance policy. Since the Samajwadi Party didn't do anything, they are trying to protect the mafias to garner support, but the majority is against this and will support us.
Yadav also says your government has not been able to launch any new project of its own but has only taken forward projects of the previous government. He cites the Purvanchal Expressway as an example…
Sanctioning token amounts for a project two months prior to the elections and not approving the tender and leaving the project halfway doesn't merit any claim to their point. It was a stunt. We have reappraised the projects, brought the cost down via a new tender, and executed it within time which speaks volumes of how focused we are on the all-around development of infrastructure in the state. Uttar Pradesh, earlier known for poor infrastructure, is now accelerating towards expressway success by building India's longest expressway network of approximately 1,321 km.
Your repeated references to 'boundary walls for kabristan' and 'appeasement politics’ of the previous government seem to be giving a Hindu-Muslim angle to the election. Is the election getting polarised?
The election is getting polarised but in favour of development, stable law and order, and safety of women. We are talking about development of the state and have provided record number of employment to the youth.
The action taken by your government against alleged mafia names like Mukhtar Ansari and leaders like Azam Khan has grabbed much attention. What was the idea behind going after such prominent names?
The idea was to uphold the rule of law and law of the land. We don’t carry mafias with us, we take action against them. Our government will build houses for the poor and Dalits on the confiscated mafia land. There is no place for those who give patronage to the mafias, criminals and other rogue elements in the new Uttar Pradesh of ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’.
While we are working towards the welfare of villages, farmers, youth, and development, it is also important to destroy the mafia culture that has become a hindrance to the development of the state. So far, we have seized illegal assets worth around Rs 1,800 crore of more than 40 mafia elements, including Mukhtar Ansari, Ateeq Ahmad, Vijay Mishra, Sundar Bhati and others to send a message to the public that mafia, however big the name, will not be spared.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has been on a visiting spree in the state, strongly taking on your government on incidents like Lakhimpur Kheri. Is she emerging as a challenge? The SP says it is a ‘fixed match’ between the BJP and the Congress in UP.
We all know who was in alliance with Congress 4.5 years ago. One never saw Priyanka Gandhi in UP during Covid-19 and doing election tourism now is hardly going to help her case. It is the Opposition which is raising the issues of Jinnah and polarisation.
The incident in Lakhimpur has raised question marks if the UP government is trying to shield the son of a Union Minister.
We are not trying to shield anyone. It was an unfortunate incident but we managed to defuse the situation within 24 hours. A Special Investigative Team (SIT) has been formed and the Supreme Court has appointed a retired justice of the High Court to monitor the situation. The state is committed to bringing the accused to trial. We have also compensated the families of all those who died in the incident.
Your former partner, Om Prakash Rajbhar, has joined hands with the SP. Purvanchal has been the BJP’s stronghold area for past three elections — is any setback a concern?
No concern at all, because we have always had a stronghold in the region. And the citizens of UP will never trust a man who is a blackmailer and believes that Jinnah deserved to become the PM of the country. Our government has done a tremendous job when it comes to development of Purvanchal which was neglected by the previous governments. We managed to contain Japanese Encephalitis which was responsible for the death of thousands of kids every year.
We have established AIIMS in Gorakhpur which has benefitted the entire Purvanchal region. Purvanchal Expressway will further give a boost to the economy and investment in the area, and will generate more jobs which will put an end to migration.
UP leads in vaccination numbers but has a long way to go to fully vaccinate all its eligible people. The SP accuses you of mismanagement during the pandemic and says thousands have died. Akhilesh has said he will take the vaccine after everyone else is vaccinated.
All opposition leaders, including the SP leader despite being MP from Azamgarh, did not visit any place or family during the entire Covid-19 pandemic. It is easier to blurt out random remarks sitting in the comfort of homes than be on the ground. As for Akhilesh Yadav not taking vaccine, he is disrespecting our scientists and doctors, and putting the lives of innocent people in danger. Ensuring health and well-being of oneself and others should take priority over politics. What kind of example is he setting for the general public? These kinds of leaders should be ridiculed and not respected.
Due to our government’s efforts, Uttar Pradesh is getting global appreciation for Covid-19 management. In terms of testing and vaccination, Uttar Pradesh is at the top position in India. We have further set a target to administer the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine to 100% eligible beneficiaries by the third week of December. To achieve this, a target of administering 15 to 20 lakh doses has been set for every day. Vaccination work will continue till 10 pm in every district. All necessary efforts are being made to achieve the target. We are vaccinating people on Sundays as well.
What about the new Covid variant Omicron?
We have issued fresh guidelines for Omicron variant of the coronavirus. We are monitoring the situation closely and are prepared.
Are the free vaccination scheme and free ration scheme your trump cards in these elections?
Free vaccination and free ration aren’t trump cards or election agendas, but rather our government’s support for the poorest section of the society which was most affected by the pandemic. The BJP’s agendas are agenda of development, agenda of welfare and progress. In the last four-and-half years, we have reached out to the poorest of the poor, to the last man at the bottom of the pyramid with facilities unheard of. The free ration distribution aimed at providing food security to the poor and deprived in the state through the Public Distribution System was an effort in this direction.
What is the ‘Naya Uttar Pradesh’ pitch?
A clear indication of the remarkable progress done by the state in ensuring the ease of doing business. The state is at the second position, a jump of 12 positions in the last 4.5 years. Even amidst the pandemic, we did not let economic activities stop in the state and received investment proposals worth Rs 66,000 crore. This has propelled UP to become the second largest state of India in terms of Gross State Domestic Product, surging ahead of industrialised states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
Prior to 2017, unemployment was above 18% which speaks for itself. As per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment in the state (now) stands at 4.8%, which is much better when compared with Delhi, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Before 2017, there were a dozen medical colleges in the state, and, in just four-and-a-half years, UP is on the way to creating a new record with medical colleges coming up in every district. Nine new medical colleges are already functional and foundation stone for 14 more has been laid and 16 are in the process of being set up in PPP mode.
The state’s MSME department has emerged as a growth engine of the state’s economy and has provided loans by banks worth Rs 2.4 lakh crore to 70 lakh MSMEs. This has generated more than 2 crore jobs. Our marquee initiative ‘One District, One Product’ has proved to be a boon for traditional artisans and spurred export growth to 38% in the handloom and handicrafts sector of the state.
Connectivity also seems to be a big plank. What new projects are you planning?
The 341-km Purvanchal Expressway is operational and we are building three more — the 296-km Bundelkhand Expressway, 91-km Gorakhpur Link Expressway and 594-km Ganga Expressway. This will enable last mile connectivity and boost socio-economic development. With the newly inaugurated Purvanchal Expressway, we have put the previously neglected Purvanchal region back on the development map. We have readied four Metros and nine airports under the UDAN scheme of the central government. Work is in progress on 28 other airports. Several irrigation projects, including the Bhaoni Dam project, will help advance development in the Bundelkhand region by resolving its water shortage.
UP is among states where several important projects of Government of India are under implementation to ensure uninterrupted connectivity. The implementation of GatiShakti National Master Plan worth Rs 5 lakh crore will further provide a strong impetus for the economy.
First Published: IST