Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday set the agenda for the Uttar Pradesh election, picking the BJP as the main rival and expressing confidence of returning to power with a bigger majority in partnership with the Congress.
In his first poll rally after taking over as the Samajwadi Party chief, the 43-year-old defended his decision to go up against his father and uncle by saying “the battle was fought in the larger interest of the people of the state and socialism”.
“We fought different types of battles. Rivals have been telling you their versions… but all that fight was in your interest. So help us, empower us more to help you more,” Yadav said at poll rally in Sultanpur Sadar, talking about months-long power struggle in the Yadav clan.
The ground -- Shahpur Lapta Ka Maidan – was packed to capacity as the chief minister returned to campaign after two months during which he took over the party after ousting his father, Mulayam, as the SP chief and stitched a poll alliance with the Congress.
The Modi government’s decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes will be a poll issue in the state which will vote for its 403-member assembly in seven phases, beginning February 11.
Yadav described the Modi government’s demonetisation decision as a “midnight curse” that brought untold hardships to people.
“Have you heard anywhere in the world that overnight currency is demonetised… Money is never black or white; transactions are black,” he said in his 20-minute address.
Farmers didn’t get money for their produce, traders suffered and businesses closed down, he said. “So many died across the country due to demonetisation but we were the only ones to help the victims. We gave Rs 2 lakh to them,” Yadav said.
His government had done so much work that there was nothing left for the BJP to do, he said. Yadav said the biggest achievements were in infrastructure and power sectors and maximum budget had been allocated for farmers’ welfare.
“The US is a powerful country. It became so as governments there focused on building fast lane roads. We propose to do the same here in Uttar Pradesh so that economic progress is expedited,” he told a largely rural gathering.
He announced a helpline for cattle, promising that the vet would be just a call away. Round the clock power supply was another promise. “Now tell me, what is left for the BJP to do?”
Yadav didn’t even mention Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, which is looking to make a comeback in the state.
“All sections of society are now with Samajwadis. And now Congress is also standing with us. Earlier, we were confident of getting a majority with 250 seats, now our tally will cross 300 seats,” he said.
Arun Verma is the Samajwadi Party candidate from Sultanpur Sadar. He is also the sitting MLA.