It's Saturday afternoon. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is in Farrukhabad distributing laptops to the students while his father and national president of the Samajwadi Party is busy meeting party leaders and workers from across the state at their Vikramaditya Marg residence. Contrary to the common belief that Mulayam is a worried man with the popularity graph of his son's government receding fast, he looks quite relaxed while taking questions. Excerpts:
You stayed away from the UPA II anniversary celebrations. Are you distancing from the Manmohan Singh government and why?
It was primarily a UPA function and I am not a part of the UPA. They had invited us, but it is just a formality. I thought there was no need to attend the anniversary celebrations of the government that we are supporting from outside. Even while supporting the government, I have strongly opposed some of their decisions such as SC/ST quota in promotions and soft-pedalling of the intrusion by the Chinese army into Indian territory.
But you had attended the UPA anniversary celebrations in 2012? Is it because the leadership has failed to restrain union ministers like Beni Prasad Verma from their onslaught against you and the party?
The performance of the UPA government dipped in the past one year what with soaring prices and spate of controversies plaguing it. How can I stand with such a government? It would have only created confusion in the public mind about our relationship with the UPA II, which is limited to issue-based support. As for their ministers' utterances, it is their internal matter and I would not like to comment. It is for the leadership to assess whether they gain or suffer from such unwarranted statements.
Will you support the Food Security and Land Acquisitions Bills in the Lok Sabha?
We will review the bills and if they are in public interest, we may support. I have already made it explicitly clear that we are against acquisition of farmer's land without their consent. We will only support decisions taken in public interest.
You foresee general election in November?
I had said this earlier as we had some indications. Now let's wait and watch the moves of the Union government as the Congress policy has always been to push some public welfare schemes in the political domain to camouflage their failures before hitting the poll track (He may be referring to farm loan waiver and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme that had paid Congress clear dividends in 2009 elections).
The UPA II seems to be cosying up to BSP leader Mayawati?
Let it. I don't think she will enter into any pre-electoral seat-sharing pact with the Congress. She has allied with the BJP in the past and would like to keep her options open.
Do you think your party's popularity graph has dashed after the formation of the government in the state?
The results of the by-polls in the state tell a different story. We won Bhatpar Rani assembly seat in Deoria with a bigger margin. Our vote percentage has only gone up. It is a misnomer that ruling party wins all by-elections. We lost seats while in power earlier.
But you have openly criticised your son's government pulling him up for being 'seedha'.
He has been working hard and I am satisfied with his performance. I only wanted the government to display its iron fist - after all 'government ka terror hona chahiye'.
Would your government's performance decide the party's future in 2014 elections. Are you worried?
No, not at all. Intellectuals and the Opposition have been attacking the government on poor law and order in the state as they find nothing else to pin down the Akhilesh government. But the public is intelligent and they are not misguided by such false propaganda. Crime cases happen, they are ten times higher in Delhi, population of which is ten times lesser than Uttar Pradesh. But the intellectuals sitting in the country's capital don't criticise that. Having said so, what is important is to take prompt action in every case while initiating measures to improve the situation and the SP government is doing both. Ask the villagers, during the earlier regime people had stopped commuting by motorcycles fearing robbery. 'Janata sab jaanti hai'. We have made some promises to the electorates and we will keep them. It has no connection with the coming elections.
Are Muslims very upset over recent incidents like custodial death of terror suspect Khalid Mujahid?
The government is doing its job and I would not like to comment on that.
You had made some promises like quota and implementation of Sachchar committee recommendations to the Muslim community. How will you fulfil them without the Centre's support?
What is important is the intent of the government. What if we ensure 15% seats for Muslims in police recruitment? What is Kanya Vidya Dhan? The purpose is to increase the literacy levels. The Centre is sitting on Sachchar committee recommendations and it is for the Muslims to analyse what all have been done for them by the upper caste prime ministers who set up various commissions.
Narendra Modi is coming to UP. What's your take on that?
Leaders do come from other states to campaign, let him also come. I went to Karnataka where we even won one seat.
Can he communalise elections?
Why this Narendra Modi obsession? Let's wait and watch.
Are you planning to contest elections in other states?
Yes, we are going to Karnataka, Mumbai, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh. We are ready for elections any time.