Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who faced anti-incumbency heat during his extensive tour of the state for the 2014 polls, conceded at the end of the campaigning the party will have to pull up its socks to remain in power after 2017 assembly polls. In an interview with Sunita Aron, he talked about the impressions gathered from the hectic campaigning in the state exit polls say has generously voted for the BJP.
What lessons have you learnt from your campaign?
This is my first exposure to elections as chief minister and it has therefore been a learning experience. I have to deliver to form the next government. People have benefitted from our welfare schemes, but they want better performance. Though caste and religion will continue to play a role in a democratic set up, what people really want is development, power, roads and water. It's a challenge and I can say we will deliver. However, I am still not convinced that BJP will form the government despite its marketing blitzkrieg.
What about your ministers? Have they not let the people down?
All of us will have to pull up our socks to stay in power. People want better civic infrastructure and improved law and order. We have set up the best police control room in Kanpur and will have it soon in Lucknow too. Such steps need to be replicated elsewhere.
So, you agree that the government has not delivered or failed to come up to public expectations?
I met the party cadre and the public in a big way after almost two years. I attended about 150 rallies in 50 days. People want performance. We did initiate some schemes in infrastructure, health and education sectors, but perhaps there is a need for regular monitoring.
Some of your ministers and MPs remained inactive in 2014 polls which were so crucial for your father's dream to play a role at the Centre?
I am aware of that and I am going to give a booth-wise performance sheet to netaji (Mulayam singh Yadav) for study and subsequent action.
Will there be a massive shake-up if the Samajwadi Party failed to get the stipulated number of seats?
Notwithstanding the projections, I am confident we will do well. Nothing changes the fact that only the SP could fight the BJP.
What if the axe fell on you?
In politics, when you are holding a position like that of a chief minister people do tend to speculate. But it is baseless gossips aimed at harming the party. Also, I have never hankered for any position and neither will I in future.
What if BJP formed the government at the Centre? You see an early election in UP?
Let's cross the bridge when we reach there. I am heading a majority government. That's for now. People at the Centre also want a secular, socialist government according to the preamble of the Constitution. I always say that it is easy to be communal, but difficult to remain secular.
Any comment on 2014 elections?
It has been a very different election in which results will vary from booth to booth. This is the first time when the people, especially the youth, media and social media, were engaged in such a big way. As politicians and parties re-coined their slogans and hoardings, it reminded me of Ram Manohar Lohia's who had said "elections are a festival".