An aggressive Hindutva campaign alone will not pay in elections voters cannot be “fooled” and politicians need to put in real development work, leading Hindutva campaigner Mahant Adityanath said in an interview with the Hindustan Times.
The 35-year-old Hindu Mahasabha member of Parliament from Gorakhpur is one of the most powerful politicians in eastern Uttar Pradesh, which goes to the polls on May 8. He is the head of Gorakshdham, a deeply revered religious institution whose influence ranges from villagers living in crushing poverty in villages to the king of Nepal.
Adityanath was arrested in January amid Hindu-Muslim tensions. He is accused of inciting hatred against Muslims, and is supporting BJP candidates in these elections. His arrest provoked widespread violence across many districts in which government buses, Muslim homes and religious processions and some Hindu shops were attacked.
Should it be good roads or Hindutva?
A. We have worked aggressively on the issue of Hindutva. We do not favour injustice against any caste, faith or religion. But we will not bear injustice either. I have raised those issues and yet tried to honestly carry out development work also.
I have brought roads, the Rapti river bridge, resumed air services, train services, a post office building. Now we are working on bringing a Rs 1,000-crore sewage treatment project, and textile and food processing park projects but the state government does not support this work, so it is pending although the money has been approved.
If we raise slogans of Hindutva, make promises we can fool people once but not over and over again. It has to be accompanied by strong and honest development work.
Q. But you are accused of stoking religious fundamentalism.
A: If I say I am for Hindu unity, I am not against Muslims and Christians. We want to unite Hindus, who are divided on the basis of caste and social divisions.
Q. What is your stance on Muslims?
A: Whoever does not believe in Indian nationalism, Indian traditions, either should not have a right to live in India, or should be treated as a second class citizen – whether he is Muslim, or Christian, or Hindu.
We are not saying every Muslim is a terrorist or is involved in anti-national activities, but the community is giving shelter to terrorists.
Q. The CPM says you want to make eastern UP another Gujarat.
A: I did not give any slogan. The CPM is encouraging Naxalites. We have restricted their activities, and that is why they make such allegations.
Q. There were religious tensions and rioting here during December and January. How did all that happen?
A. Saddam Hussein was hanged in Iraq, but the Samajwadi Party decided to hold protests here and traders’ shops were attacked. After that, there were a series of incidents in which homes and shops of Hindus were attacked, women were molested. When we protested, I was arrested. Then there was a natural reaction from people.
Q. Do you regret the rioting that happened?
A. Many things happened which should not have happened. Government property was destroyed at many places. But it is a matter of investigation who actually the attackers were.
Q. You have had differences with the BJP.
A: Look, the differences were over a matter of principles. If we talk of Hindutva, there should be no differences in our words and actions. When that happens, people will dislike us, run away from us. Our point was that the preference in ticket distribution should have been given to people involved with that ideology.
First I was asked for a list, then that list was made public. I said this is not done. I said there should be action against the people who did this, who created a crisis of trust, or we will not be able to work together. But we are together now.