Interview: I share a relationship with the people of Karhal, says SP Baghel

Published on Feb 01, 2022 06:36 AM IST

After filing his nomination papers, the sitting Parliamentarian from SP Singh Baghel told HT that he was delighted to be the surprise nominee for his party and that he has the requisite experience to take on Yadav as he had already fought against four members of the SP family in the past.

Union minister SP Singh Baghel.(ANI photo)
Union minister SP Singh Baghel.(ANI photo)
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Union minister SP Singh Baghel against Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav from Karhal seat of Mainpuri for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections. After filing his nomination papers, the sitting Parliamentarian from Agra told HT that he was delighted to be the surprise nominee for his party and that he has the requisite experience to take on Yadav as he had already fought against four members of the SP family in the past. Edited excerpts:

How was this decision of fielding you against SP chief Akhilesh Yadav taken?

It’s a decision taken by the high command, the organisation. I wouldn’t know the details.

Having been an SP insider, does that give you an advantage?

It’s not for the first time that I am contesting against Akhilesh Yadav. In 2009, when I was in the Bahujan Samaj Party, behenji (Mayawati) had given me a ticket against him in Firozabad. I lost that election but I again contested another election against Dimple Yadav (Akhilesh’s wife) from the same seat. Then I went to Rajya Sabha and after three years, I resigned from the party and contested the elections for the BJP. At that time, I was back to Firozabad (to fight) against Akshay Yadav (Akhilesh’s cousin and son of SP general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav). So, this is my fourth election against this family on behalf of two parties. I am very grateful to the high command that they gave me this ticket. The SP leader chose the best seat in Uttar Pradesh for himself, and my party gave me this seat.

What makes you confident that this time you will win?

This is not very far from my constituency. I was a three-time MP from Jalesar, which is very close by, and so I share a relationship with the people in Karhal. The inspector general of the two places are the same and so are several other bureaucrats. Whenever I meet the public in my house in Agra, people from other constituencies also come and meet me. It may sound like a boast but even a 10-year-old boy in the area knows my name. That’s because this is my fifth term as an MP, four terms in Lok Sabha and one term in Rajya Sabha, and also had one term as MLA where I was a minister in the Yogi government.

You were the head of the OBC unit of the party. Why have so many OBC leaders quit in the recent past?

That’s only two or three cases. You have (Swami Parasad) Maurya and (former UP minister Dharam Singh) Saini, etc, but you are not counting the number of OBC people who are joining the BJP. For instance, in Agra, a two-term OBC MLA named Bhagvan Singh Kushwaha joined the party; two-term MLA Dharam Pal Singh joined the party. So for every person who left, there are many who are joining everyday.

But I am talking about sitting ministers leaving. And one of them is Swami Prasad Maurya who is seen as someone who switches to the winning side. Isn’t that worrying?

For Swami Prasad Maurya, we have our deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya as a representative of the community. He’s like the Sher Shah Suri of modern UP. During his meeting in Mainpuri today, several people from the community attended.

So what’s the big challenge for you in this election?

Nothing is a challenge. However, this is a rural constituency and has got a step-motherly treatment from Akhilesh Yadav. Karhal is just five kilometres away from Saifai (Yadav family stronghold) but it doesn’t have any of the development that their area does. So people realise that voting for the SP has not paid off for them.

We’ve seen Amit Shah reach out to RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary. Doesn’t it show that BJP is on the backfoot?

No, we are on the frontfoot. See, the kind of micromanagement that is done in our party is that as a Union minister, I am now contesting against Akhilesh Yadav and the strategy of the party is something that is kept under close wraps. Nobody knew that I was going to contest from Karhal. It was a real surprise and as a professor of military science, let me tell you that in war, surprise is a key strategy.

Even the farm laws aren’t a major factor?

The demand of the farmers was to withdraw these laws. If they were angry with the bills, then we have already withdrawn them. So, the political matter is resolved.


    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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