Yogi Adityanath interview: ‘I do politics of development... how can that be divisive’
UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath is the man in the hot seat as the BJP eyes an unprecedented fourth win in a row in UP after a hat-trick of sorts in 2014, 2017, and 2019 (the first and the last, when it won the Lok Sabha elections).
Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath is the man in the hot seat as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) eyes an unprecedented fourth win in a row in UP after a hat-trick of sorts in 2014, 2017, and 2019 (the first and the last, when it won the Lok Sabha elections). The monk (he is the head of the Goraknath math) who is equally comfortable in politics spoke to HT on the challenges in a state that has not been generous in returning the ruling party to power since 2007.
In 2017, when you became chief minister, the public saw a saffron-robed monk more than a politician. Today, when you are running for a second stint, I think they see an astute politician...
I was a Yogi, and will remain a Yogi always. But the state, country and the world have seen how a Yogi who is into pure spirituality can also be a performer —Yogi, jo samaj ke liye upyogi (Yogi who is useful for the society).
In your first interview in 2017, you said you will return to your spiritual duties once your social agenda is complete?
Why not? I maintain that even today. I am not a full-time politician. I am Yogi, and would like to remain a Yogi.
What’s your unfinished agenda?
You have just seen part one of our governance in which, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we presented our vision for the development of the state, the avenues for growth. However, two years were consumed by the pandemic, slowing our pace of development. Yet, we improved the state’s financial health, doubled the (size of the) state’s economy in three years. In part two, when we will have a full five-year tenure, Uttar Pradesh will figure as the most developed state, emerge as a centre of education and health.
Uttar Pradesh has been voting for a change since 2007. Can you buck this trend?
The BJP is going to form a majority government. We have to demolish this myth.
Union home minister Amit Shah, after meeting Jat leaders, said the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has entered into an alliance with the wrong party? Is there still a scope for some understanding with it?
The Union home minister was very positive and whatever he said was absolutely correct. The people of Muzaffarnagar, Moradabad, Bulandshahr, Bijnor, Shahjahanpur and Bareilly have not forgotten the riots that they suffered (in 2013). I don’t think they will ever forgive and trust the Samajwadi Party.
But did you also have a dialogue with Jats to allay their fears on the farm laws?
I have met Jats at various programmes. I meet every community. Farm laws are not an issue now after the Prime Minister withdrew them in the country’s interest. In fact, they were never an issue in UP.
Is there scope for an alliance with the RLD even now?
Tickets have been distributed. We will get our majority and form the government with our allies. But in politics one can never rule out possibilities or can be very candid about them. Much depends on the situation that will emerge.
You talk about Hindu consolidation but people accuse you of being casteist, and of favouring Rajputs
I am not hurt. It is not a crime to be born in a Rajput family. This is one caste in the country in which even God was born, not once but many times. One should take pride in one’s caste, and I am proud to be a Rajput. But that does not mean my government has discriminated against other castes and communities. I ask my opponents: How many Rajputs got houses out of 43 lakhs that were constructed for the poor? Not even 1% or perhaps not even 1,000. Similarly, 21.6 million toilets were made, food grains were disbursed to 150 million poor people. They were Dalits, OBCs and minorities. Those who accuse me of pursuing casteist politics, in fact, promote their own family as and when they get an opportunity. They don’t even serve their own caste.
Everybody wants to know why you did not contest from Ayodhya as your voice would have prevailed in the party?
The BJP is a political party that follows democratic values. In the BJP, the party is above individuals. Similarly, national interests are above the party interest. It is the party which decides who will contest the elections and also from where. The party decided I contest from Gorakhpur keeping in mind the sentiments of the people.
Who will contest from Ayodhya, which is an important seat? Have you suggested any name?
The party will decide the candidate for Ayodhya who will also win the election with a thumping majority. Every worker is important for the BJP. But the roles of the workers can vary from time to time.
Apparently the Hindu Yuva Vahini , which has been lying low since you became chief minister, has taken charge of your campaign in Gorakhpur?
Hindu Yuva Vahini is not an issue, and there is no need to comment on it. All — the Yuva Vahini, BJP, traders’ organisations — have their respective roles. And what they were doing in the past, they are doing today, and will do in future.
Is there any contest in Gorakhpur? Or it is a fight for the victory margin?
Every election is an acid test for every candidate. So, there is no space for overconfidence or complacency. It is also a medium to present your achievements and seek blessings of the public. Victory margin can be important also.
Swami Prasad Maurya and some OBC leaders quit the party? Did you anticipate their exodus and how big is the loss?
The way they came (many defected from parties such as the BSP), they left also. They were a part of the government which did not discriminate in the implementation of welfare schemes. We respect all. But everyone is free to take independent decisions and leave, or stay. We don’t stop anyone. Those who incite riots and acquire government or public property under government protection don’t do [anything for] social justice. Are the candidates fielded by the SP, BSP and the Congress representative of social justice? Those who pursue the politics of principle enjoy a long innings. And the public teaches lessons to those who keep their vested interests above national interests.
Is your Hindu vote bank cracking?
Aren’t people joining the BJP also? Have RPN Singh, Hari Om Yadav and Aparna Yadav not joined the BJP? Why is Maurya running away from the seat now. Aren’t they all backward faces?
You accuse the SP and other parties of fielding rioters, while they say you do divisive politics -- your 80/20 comment, for instance?
80% comprise those who are positive, nationalist and want good governance. They belong to every caste. 20% include the corrupt, those who incite riots, anarchy and create communal disturbance. This is divisive politics. While 80% will vote for the BJP, 20% may vote for others.
I do politics of development, provide security, good governance. How can this be divisive politics? Instead, giving tickets to professional criminals and rioters, [members of] mafias is, in fact, divisive politics. Both the SP and the BSP are vying with each other to field criminals. The Congress is also not lagging behind.
But how is it that the BJP does not get even have a single Muslim candidate contesting the election?
Every political party, including the BJP, fields candidates keeping in mind two things – winnability and representation to every section of the society.
What about Muslims?
The BJP is not at fault. They lack faith in us and our ideology. When someone asks for a ticket, the party will consider.
But the opposition is accusing the BJP also of giving tickets to criminals.
We have not given tickets to criminals. Some may have politically motivated cases against them. The party has not fielded professional rioters and criminals.
The opposition says that there are criminal cases against you and your deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Before making such an allegation, they should have done some soul- searching – they should have seen within their family or even themselves.
If the BJP is so confident of winning the elections , why is it importing leaders from other parties?
Those joining the party want to serve the nation and we welcome them. The BJP has not grown in a day. It expands when people join.
The BJP says the SP encourages dynastic politics? What about the BJP? How far have you been successful in putting an end to this practice?
The BJP is not like other parties – father is national president, son is state president, uncle is MP, when son is the chief minister, uncle is a senior minister. In the BJP, there are some family members who have been serving the party for decades. They get tickets as a true karyakarta (worker), and not son or daughter