Former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s grandson Siddharth Nath Singh, a BJP lawmaker from the Muslim-dominated Allahabad (west) assembly constituency, is the new health minister of the most populous state.
Immediately after being allotted the portfolio, Singh spoke to HT, dismissing his party’s perceived anti-Muslim image as propaganda, promised to reduce VIP culture and said Sabka saath, sabka vikas will be motto of Yogi sarkar. Excerpts:
You were part of the team that drafted the Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra that contains about 200 plus promises you made to UP. Now, that you are a health minister are you confident of meeting the expectations?
When I was chosen to draft the Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra, I didn’t know if I would contest the election. What I did know then was we would be forming the government.
So we were aware from the start what we were committing. That’s why you would have noticed that we have described it as Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra. Ours is not just any manifesto. It’s a commitment. We will fulfil each and every bit of it.
What makes you so confident?
We are followers of Narendra Modiji. As you would have seen every day, Modiji’s government is implementing at least ten promises made to the people. Yogiji’s sarkar is driven by the same philosophy. The yogi sarkar will be a replica of Modi sarkar.
Don’t know about other promises but the crackdown on illegal slaughter houses and Romeos has begun. There are fears too about whether the government will be vindictive?
Yes, we have started in right earnest. Our adversaries might be interested in raising the pitch against us. But anything which is illegal cannot be morally right and should not be encouraged. I think that should settle the slaughterhouse argument. As far as anti-Romeo force is concerned, it was a commitment we have honoured. Women’s rights will be protected. We have promised something for farmers in our first cabinet meeting. That will be fulfilled.
You came to power on the law and order issue. Now, are you confident of living up to the challenge?
Yes, we are. You will see that. Yogiji like Modiji is a hard taskmaster.
What is the kind of line Yogi Sarkar would take towards minorities?
Minorities have mostly been used as vote banks. We wish to empower all, not just any one caste or community. Our slogan sabka saath, sabka vikas says it all.
What do you have in mind for minorities?
The Modi government introduced Mudra yojana providing for small loans up to ₹10 lakh without guarantee. Who are the target groups? Tailors, weavers and like. That’s why we say we want to empower all, including Muslims. Once Muslims are empowered, they won’t ever leave us.
Your manifesto talks about triple talaq?
This issue has been taken up by the Supreme Court that asked the law ministry to give its views. We came up with our viewpoint. If you remember, we did say that we will consult minority community women before going back to the SC and then the apex court will give its decision.
You seem to be hopeful that minorities are veering towards the BJP. What makes you say so?
I tell you. I come from a constituency that is Allahabad (west) where there is a fair share of minorities. It has a large Muslim segment. I must have got about 10% of the Muslim vote.
The BJP government in Uttarakhand has done away with ‘lal batti’ or red beacon culture. Any plans to do that in UP too?
I have stopped using siren in my vehicle. That’s a beginning. Lal batti by rule is allowed. It doesn’t inconvenience people. The sirens do. I have taken the lead. My colleagues have appreciated it. I am sure it will spread.
Corruption is another issue on which you will be tested?
Chief minister Yogiji has already asked ministers and officials to declare their income and assets in 15 days. That shows intent. We will make the whole system transparent. Wait and see.
The PM is an early riser. We hear the day at PMO starts early. So in UP too bureaucrats should now get ready for early days?
(laughs) no .. no ... We want our bureaucrats to have a good sleep so that they come fully charged for work.
Both Modiji and Yogiji are yoga-lovers. Do we expect yoga in schools of UP now that your government is in power?
Personally, I will be very happy if that happens.
When do we expect 24x7 power in UP, that you have promised?
All that I can say right now is that if we have made a commitment, we will honour it.