Coffee with HT: UP finance minister’s maths woven around verses - Hindustan Times
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Coffee with HT: UP finance minister’s maths woven around verses

May 30, 2022 12:03 AM IST

The UP finance minister’s speeches are garnished with poetry, at a time when politicians launch a no-holds barred attack to target rivals

LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh finance minister Suresh Khanna can recall poetic verses with as much ease as the number of times he took ill in his life or his victory margins since 1989!

Khanna has now applied for a Guinness record for winning from the same constituency for nine consecutive terms. (HT)
Khanna has now applied for a Guinness record for winning from the same constituency for nine consecutive terms. (HT)

“Barring 1978, 1999 and 2018, I didn’t ever run even fever,” said the 70-year-old BJP veteran, who got a law degree from the Lucknow University but chose to go against the family’s advice of becoming a lawyer. He briefly dabbled in journalism and even got two newspapers registered before he realised his calling in life.

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At a ‘Coffee with HT’ programme at the Hindustan Times office, Khanna, the BJP veteran who has been winning uninterrupted from Shahjahanpur assembly segment since 1989, took queries on diverse subjects, from his love for poetry, to how difficult was it to meet people’s expectations in the budget that he presented in the assembly on Thursday.

“There were 130 pre-poll commitments we made to the people. The first budget seeks to address 97 of them. The rest would be met too. This is just the beginning,” said Khanna who also headed the BJP’s manifesto committee.

A quick learner, in four years he avenged his loss in 1985 to emerge a winner from Shahjahanpur for the first time on a BJP ticket and hasn’t looked back since.

Khanna’ first became a lawmaker in 1989, the year when the Congress was last in power in UP and on way to his nine consecutive poll wins since, he has witnessed political rise of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the era of tie-ups including SP-BSP, BJP-BSP, majority governments since 2007 and the “BJP’s double engine government” era since 2017 in U.P.

Khanna, who has now applied for a Guinness record for winning from the same constituency for nine consecutive terms, didn’t reveal the ‘secret’ of his poll wins that have come despite his caste (he is a khatri), being inconsequential in the constituency. “Hum apni janata ki pooja karte hain (I worship my electorate),” was all that he would admit to, despite much prodding.

“I have applied for a Guinness record. They have a tough screening process. Let us see what happens,” he said with a smile.

No, he didn’t reveal his ‘personal favourite’ from the long list of chief ministers he worked under either. The CMs he worked with include late Kalyan Singh (twice), late Ram Prakash Gupta, Rajnath Singh and Yogi Adityanath (twice running).

“Mujhko in sabme mat phansaiye, sabki apni apni khasiyat rahi … tabhi wo mukhyamantri banein (don’t get me trapped in all this, each had their own merits and that is why they became chief ministers).

However, despite running short on time, he greeted the query that sought his response to his love for poetry with a smile.

“That’s true. I like poetry,” he said days after he punctuated his budget speech on Thursday with Urdu verses. His creativity manifested itself during the 2022 UP poll campaign, when he tweaked a popular song to target his political adversaries. “Hum layein hain UP ko apradah se nikal ke, iss Pradesh ko rakhna mere logon sambhal ke (we have made U.P. safe from crime, keep the state safely, my people),” he had sung on the poll pitch.

“Political life is tough and uncertain .. being a fulltime politician is perhaps the toughest,” he said.

Khanna’s style of resorting to verses to make a point is a far cry perhaps from the general scenario when politicians launch a no-holds barred attack to target rivals. “Yes, I think our language should always be decent,” he said.

Khanna loves his constituency. “There must be many followers of Lord Hanuman among you. Just google as to which is the tallest statue,” he suggested and smiled as the search revealed Shahjhanapur where a tall statue of Hanuman stands in the middle of a river. Known for its association with freedom fighters, Khanna said a ‘light and sound show’ too would start soon at the martyrs’ memorial there.

On request, he even recited a popular ghazal, ‘paisey do’.

“Khamsoh gile, masoom zidein, mujhse kahti hain, paisey do ..(silent grudges, childish whims .. ask me for an allowance)..”

And, the finance minister was on a song, again!

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Manish Chandra Pandey is a Lucknow-based Senior Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times’ political bureau in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Along with political reporting, he loves to write offbeat/human interest stories that people connect with. Manish also covers departments. He feels he has a lot to learn not just from veterans, but also from newcomers who make him realise that there is so much to unlearn.

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