Rushdie visit would have affected polls

Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav addresses a public rally at Balliya in Uttar Pradesh. HT Photo by Vinay Pandey

People want change, BJP, Cong cannot deliver it After covering 8,000 km in his yatra, Samajwadi Party state president Akhilesh Singh Yadav says Uttar Pradesh is ready to vote for development.

You are touring the state extensively. What's your take on it?
I have travelled 8,000 km, covering almost all constituencies. People want development. 'Umeed ki Cycle' is in tune with the aspirational mood.

But the 'vote for change' is not as visible as in Kolkata...
That is probably because there are many national parties in the fray here. People want to remove this government. The BJP can't do that, nor the Congress.

Three young star campaigners are in the fray - Rahul Gandhi, Jayant Chaudhary and you. Why should a young voter vote for you?
Because we made their voice heard, because we have the most active youth wing, because we are offering them free education, tablets, laptops etc. At least 80 of the 403 candidates are below 40 years.

Some parties have ridiculed your party's manifesto of giving everything free.
Even after we give free electricity and water to farmers, free medical care, free education, laptops and tablets, we will be spending less than what Mayawati spent on statues.

What about complaints of goondaism?
Have our cadres misbehaved anywhere in the recent months? We are the only party to set up a call centre for complaints and suggestions.

Have you read Satanic Verses?
Not the entire book. I have read the controversial paragraphs.

Do you believe that Salman Rushdie's Jaipur visit would have impacted the UP polls?
Yes. Muslims are upset with his book. Why should we unnecessarily allow a controversy during elections?

There is a view that we should also respect freedom of speech.
Why should any learned author show disrespect to any religion? We should respect all religions. Even our Constitution says so.

Can you be in alliance with BJP?
Never. It is a propaganda spread by the opposition.

Your favourite mode of campaign?
I prefer rath or cycle as it helps us connect better with the people. Choppers create a distance. We are also using social network sites to connect with the masses.


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