Actor-turned politician and sitting Rampur MP Jaya Prada is eyeing a third consecutive term in the Lok Sabha. This time, she is in the fray as the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate from Bijnore, a largely rural constituency, which includes areas that witnessed severe violence during last year's Muzaffarnagar riots. In a chat with HT’s S Raju, the actor speaks about her mentor Amar Singh, the Bijnore shift and her poll priorities.
Initially, you wanted to join Congress. What happened?
I called on Soniaji twice and she was very affectionate. (But) I wanted to join any party with Amar Singhj ji, as he is my political mentor.
People of Rampur elected you twice, but then you shifted to Bijnore.
My heart says I should stay in Rampur. But RLD doesn't have a seat arrangement with the Congress in Rampur, so I have to contest from Bijnore.
Your rivals say you were looking for an escape route from Rampur to avoid Azam Khan.
Azam is not a big factor for me. People from Rampur have come here to support me. After the Muzaffarnagar riots, Azam's graph has gone down and today there is no development in Rampur.
The Muzaffarnagar riots have disrupted RLD's winning combination of Jat and Muslims. What is your strategy to revive it?
I have earned a lot of goodwill from my work in Rampur. I have worked particularly for Muslim education, welfare of madarsas and women. Muslims are definitely against the BJP because of the Muzaffarnagar riots. My rivals in SP and BSP don't have a good reputation either. Being the only woman candidate here, I am getting overwhelming support from women voters. Jat reservation is another plus for me, as they are committed to (RLD chief) Ajit Singh.
Apart from the glam factor, how do you connect with voters?
People will vote for you on the basis of glamour only once. Ultimately, you have to prove yourself. People take me seriously because I have been in Parliament for 10 years and because of my performance in my constituency.
Do you think being an outsider is an issue?
Meira Kumar and Mayawati won from here but didn't return after their victory. When I contested from Rampur, people tagged me as an outsider. But I continued to visit Rampur and share people's grief and happiness. I don't feel like an outsider.
One big thing you will do if you win.
Bad conditions of sugarcane growers are a major factor in the area. I blame the present regime, including Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Yadav. My main objective in this constituency is to protect farmers.
Who is your nearest rival?
The BJP. They must be stopped so that a better atmosphere can be developed in the area, particularly after the Muzaffarnagar riot. Whenever BJP comes to power, it divides communities. The BJP and BSP are hand in glove with each other and my fight will be against the BSP.