SP will be single-largest party in U.P, INDIA bloc will get most seats: Akhilesh Yadav - Hindustan Times

SP will be single-largest party in U.P, INDIA bloc will get most seats: Akhilesh Yadav

By, Lucknow
May 24, 2024 04:31 AM IST

People have acquired a sixth sense, and they have decided to remove the BJP from power, says Samajwadi Party chief in an interview with HT.

The former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and the president of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Akhilesh Yadav is in the middle of a frenetic campaign as the last two rounds of the 2024 general elections move to the hotly contested eastern belt of the state. Though the SP lost heavily in the last two Lok Sabha and assembly elections in the state, Yadav says he is confident of turning the tide because people have seen through the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s negative campaign. He spoke to Hindustan Times about his party’s prospects, the INDIA alliance, and the key issues that are defining the polls in Uttar Pradesh. Edited excerpts:

Samajwadi Party national president Akhilesh Yadav. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)
Samajwadi Party national president Akhilesh Yadav. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)

Q: The elections are nearing an end and there are only two more phases to go. On Wednesday, you said you see a change in the political climate. What’s your forecast for Uttar Pradesh and India?

A: What is happening in the country will come later, but in Uttar Pradesh, the SP will be the single largest party and INDIA bloc will have the most seats. From the first day, I have been saying that we are winning 79 seats and have a fight in one seat. When the elections moved to east UP and the language of the BJP leaders changed, it indicated that the BJP would be routed in all 80 seats.The N in NDA (the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) means negative; theirs is the politics is of negativity. INDIA bloc is working with spirit of PDA (the Hindi acronym for backward classes – pichde, scheduled castes – Dalit, and minorities – alpsankhyak; a term the SP leader has repeatedly used this election season). But P is also for progressive and P is also for Purvanchal (the key region of UP going to polls on Saturday). The BJP is going to lose all 27 seats in east UP.

Q: What makes you so confident?

A: The experience of the people I have met during campaigning; 10 years of the central government in Delhi; and seven years of the BJP government in UP. People had lots of hope from the BJP government, they thought that the government would bring a change in their life when BJP leaders used to speak of $5 trillion economy and fifth biggest economy in the world. But the poor people saw that their income was not increasing. The BJP told farmers that their income would be doubled, but farmers found that their costs have increased. When the BJP government felicitated Chaudhary Charan Singh and MS Swaminathan with Bharat Ratna, the farmers thought that the BJP is working for their welfare, but they found that they have been cheated with the increase in costs in agriculture and inflation.

The leak of question papers has angered young people; the BJP government is allowing this so that they do not have to give employment to the youths. Six million young people appeared for the recruitment tests; add their family members, say about three in a family, then it becomes 18 million people angry with the government. Divide across 80 Lok Sabha seats and you get 2.25 lakh votes in each constituency.

The Agniveer system launched for the recruitment in the Army has generated anger among young people.

Traders are angry with the Goods and Services Tax (GST); the BJP government told them that their income would increase, but due to complications in GST and raids, traders are also angry. Though raids have been stopped, the extortion from the traders has not been stopped. Prices, including that of fuel, vehicles, gas cylinder, food items, have increased. Some rich people are making profits. The price of medicines has increased. Farmers are getting less fertiliser in the bags. The government has failed and is allowing businessmen close to them to exploit common people to make profits. The failure of the government has made us confident.

N is for negative. When the BJP leaders found that they are losing the election, they moved to a negative narrative. They are raising the issue of Hindu- Muslim, Pakistan. Speeches of both the PM (Narendra Modi) and the CM (Yogi Adityanath) are depressing.

Q: But BJP says it is confident of getting 400-plus seats.

A: First understand the 400-plus slogan. There are 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, after 400 seats, the BJP is targeting 143 seats. The BJP leaders have realised that their slogan is wrong, the message has gone to the people that the BJP is aiming for only 143 seats.

BJP leaders said that Modi needs 400 seats to amend the Constitution. The BJP strategy has failed. People have understood the game plan of the BJP to amend the Constitution. The followers of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar and those who want to strengthen democracy and the Constitution have united and have joined the PDA family of the SP. Now, the BJP is finding itself out of the contest.

Q: You have been raising these issues and also price rise, unemployment, caste census and reservation in your speeches. Are you sure these are the real issues against the BJP?

A: From the first day of the launch of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, our effort was to increase the vote of the SP. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2022 assembly elections, our focus was in increasing the support base. We have been successful in building a big social base. The BJP leaders started breaking our alliance by luring the ally party leaders. But we have built an alliance with the people. We have been raising issues on the interests of PDA, ideals of Ambedkar and worked to save the Constitution.

Q: The BJP is equally confident about the Modi government’s work. It believes that ‘Modi Ki Guarantees’ will work?

A: The guarantees are hollow and the people have decided to remove them from power.

Q: In UP, the BJP is also banking on the Yogi Adityanath government’s work. The PM himself praises the CM in his rallies. The emphasis is on the double engine government.

A: In the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, people have acquired a sixth sense, and they have decided to remove the BJP from power. Those who are speaking of double engine have removed the Lucknow engine (Adityanath) from the hoardings installed by the party.

Q: Another of your partners, Arvind Kejriwal of AAP, has also said the same thing – that Yogi will be removed from power.

A: It’s true. Kejriwal is the CM of Delhi; he is aware of the politics and game plan of the BJP at the national level. The BJP has removed Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh, Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan. They will not spare the UP CM also. The senior IAS officer aspiring for the top posts are disappointed. The UP government has not even been able to appoint permanent DGP. The double engine is colliding. The PM will lose in Varanasi and those close to him are deserting him.

Q: There seems to be good chemistry between you and Rahul Gandhi (of the Congress)?

A: There is chemistry but the SP has also improved its arithmetic by social engineering and being part of the INDIA bloc.

Q: Not too long ago, around the time of 2023 state elections, the alliance seemed a non-starter. Your party was unable to strike any seat-sharing deals with the Congress then.

A: In politics, every one wants to move ahead, improve their party’s performance, but the good thing is that we all came on a common platform in order to save the country and the Constitution. The SP has always been ready to sacrifice for this cause. Even during times of Neta ji (the late Mulayam Singh Yadav), we did the same. We have never been shy of showing large heartedness.

Q: What is the future of your alliance with the Congress? Will it continue in the 2027 assembly polls?

A: Don’t get trapped in these questions. Live in the present. .All our great philosophers say “live in the present, don’t think of the future”. We have all experience of coming and going, so we have no tension.

Q: If you are forming the government like you claim, who is your PM? BJP says the INDIA bloc has no face.

A: June 4 (results day) will be the day of happiness. It will be golden day. A film will be released with tittle “Ek thi bhajpa” (once there was BJP). We have no dearth of faces; we will sit down and decide the face.

Q: Is Rahul Gandhi the PM face?

A: INDIA bloc leaders have not decided on any face. Just see what a rich pool of leaders we have to make our choice.

Q: How do you see the BSP factor playing out in UP?

A: The BSP is hand-in- glove with the BJP. There is a secret understanding between the two. Today, I am coming back from Jaunpur. People are openly talking about the BJP-BSP bonhomie there.

Q: You keep emphasising the PDA base you have built, but all smaller caste-based parties are with the BJP – RLD, Apna Dal, Nishad Party and others. Is this not a challenge?

A: Leaders of all these parties are selfish politicians. They are like that wooden handle in the axe which chops down the very tree it came from. These parties have committed a big injustice to the poor and marginalised people, whom they claim to represent.

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