These are perhaps the two busiest months of Akhilesh Yadav's political life, which began in 1999. He was busy in 2009 as well, and got a business jet and a helicopter from father Mulayam Singh Yadav to campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.
After the polls, he became the state president of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and eventually won the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh to become the chief minister. In a chat with HT, Akhilesh talks about the party's prospects in the 2014 elections. Excerpts:
Poll pundits predict a poor show by the SP. What gives you the confidence to think otherwise?
Pre-poll surveys, poll pundits and media have their own agenda. They omit many factors. Did any poll survey predict the kind of victory we registered in 2012? This time too, the number of our seats will see a rise. My confidence comes from my government's work, party's policies, philosophies... We fulfilled our manifesto promises within two years. People had mocked at the promises. But we did fulfil them — that too in a very short time. Every part of the state is on the path of development.
But public perception is different.
No, not public perception... it is the media which perceive things according to their agenda. We are ahead in work but lag in publicity. Ghar-ghar mein image theek hai, akhbaar or TV mein nahin hai (Our image is good in households, but not in newspapers and televisions).
How can 15 lakh households who got laptops, families whose girls got education and Muslim families whose girls got aid not have a good image of the government? How a farmer who is getting free water or seeds and fertilizers on time not have good image about us?
Though we did not do all this for votes, our schemes and programmes will get us votes. We are contesting elections on our works, policies and philosophies and secularism. Rivals are fanning communal fire.
What is your take on the Muzaffarnagar riots?
It was not meant to be a riot. It was a small clash between a Jat and a Muslim that communal forces converted into riots for their own political interests. But, we handled it well. Post-riots, we did our best to wipe away tears and heal scars. Never in the history of riots anywhere in the country did the victims get such help. While the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court acknowledged this, people in Muzaffarnagar too have realised it.
What about the first phase, when Muzaffarnagar too is going to polls?
We have recovered a lot. I held a series of rallies in the first-phase constituencies ( of UP that go to polls on April 10) including Muzaffarnagar. The kind of support our rally got was phenomenal. I am confident that we would do far better than the last time when we won only Bulandshahr among these constituencies. This time, we are in a good position in Noida (Gautam Budh Nagar), Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Kairana and Bijnor. And, once we fare well in the region, where we hardly had any presence once, we would consolidate in the rest of the state.
What is the most difficult challenge to the party?
Being secular is the most difficult challenge. But, we will continue to tread the socialist and secular path. It is easy to be communal, but very difficult to be secular. Because when we take steps for betterment of different section and communities, we are accused of doing appeasement politics.