President of the Samajwadi Party (SP), the youngest chief minister to have held office in Uttar Pradesh and a meticulous politician – Akhilesh Yadav has a rebuttal to every question posed to him, be it against his own party or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In an exclusive interview with The Quint’s Editorial Director, Sanjay Pugalia, Yadav spoke on a range of issues – from demonetisation, development to gau raksha.
Phulpur and Gorakhpur Victory
Having toppled Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya from their own constituency in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls, with the help of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Yadav said that this was a warning for the BJP.
The Gorakhpur and Phulpur elections are a message to the BJP government. It’s a warning that they should fulfil promises made to the people, and if they cannot, the people of the country are ready to give answers.Akhilesh Yadav, president, Samajwadi Party
He also accused the BJP of making tall claims and fooling people over promises they know they cannot fulfil.
‘Rum Mein Ram’
Yadav said that the BJP used every lawful and unlawful tactic to make sure that the SP and BSP candidate does not win the Rajya Sabha election.
The jailed candidates in Jharkhand could come and cast their votes for the RS elections. Why could that not happen in Uttar Pradesh? They call themselves Ram Bhakts, but they also lure the ones who see rum in Ram. We lost four votes that way.Akhilesh Yadav
The SP president said that in order to defeat the BJP in the future, the SP, BSP and Congress will work together.
On being questioned about a face in the Opposition that can match Modi's calibre and credentials, Yadav said that the BJP has portrayed the prime minister as a larger-than-life character but the common man and the farmer knows the truth.
‘Regional Parties a Game Changer’
"It is up to the regional parties to stop the influx of the BJP in the state. Likewise, it is the SP's responsibility to stop the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Only the regional parties can stop the BJP in the future," he said.
The right step for the Congress would be to support parties like the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the Samajwadi Party and BSP in UP, he said.
‘CBI a Puppet’
"The CBI has always been a tool for the ruling party at the Centre, be it any. Recently, one of their MLAs was facing some charges and the case has been transferred to the CBI so that he can be helped. If the case was being handled within UP, he would have been exposed and jailed," the former UP chief minister said.
On Demonetisation, Nepotism and Communalism
"They should have consulted a pandit before demonetisation," said Yadav, when asked about demonetisation.
It is very easy to call somebody corrupt but demonetisation was the biggest corruption tactic. Rather than paying taxes on the money they have, people had to go and deposit that amount in banks. The BJP knows that it made a mistake with demonetisation.Akhilesh Yadav
Demonetisation was executed primarily to benefit the companies propagating cashless transactions, he said.
Yadav said the BJP only claims to be free of nepotism but the reality is different. Attacking Yogi Adityanath, he said that he is where he is because his maternal uncle was a part of the math. There are members of the governor and former home minister’s family in the party.
On the issue of communalism, he said the BJP was the biggest communal party of the country and was dividing the nation for political gains.
Hidden Numbers on Electoral Bonds
When asked about The Quint's investigation on hidden numbers on electoral bonds, Yadav said that it was an important expose.
The parties in the Opposition will never be able to track who donated to the ruling party. But the Centre will easily be able to access information as to who funded the Opposition. They must have done this to make sure that no funding goes to the Opposition.Akhilesh Yadav
The Samajwadi Party chief accused the BJP of framing electoral funding laws in a way that they are able to maximise their funds but not the Opposition’s.
Warning the government of the unrest within the Dalit community, Yadav said that the 2 April protests took place without the backing of any political party and with the help of social media.
The protests took place because the community is upset, and there are tools available today which may not have been available a decade ago. The recent protests were planned and propagated over social media. The Centre needs to understand that the people can take to the streets themselves. The government’s stand on atrocities against Dalits needs to be clear.Akhilesh Yadav
‘BJP Politicised Gau Raksha’
Accusing the BJP of politicising the issue of gau raksha (cow protection) and beef ban, Yadav said that the SP has always been concerned about the issue but the BJP entangled it for political gains.
"As far as the matter of gau raksha is concerned, the BJP entangled the issue and politically benefitted from it despite cow protection laws already being in place. The people have understood that the BJP politicised the issue and fooled them."
Kathua, Unnao Rapes
When asked about the Opposition not reacting enough to the issue of Kathua and Unnao rape cases, Yadav said that the Opposition did as much as it could have.
The doors of justice opened in the Kathu and Unnao cases only after people expressed their anger. The SP Women’s Wing protested at several places across the state with hunger strike and candlelight marches. But that sometimes may go unnoticed and we may not get the support of the people as much as we expect.Akhilesh Yadav
The Opposition in 2019
Akhilesh Yadav said that the SP was doing as much as it could to unite the Opposition ahead of the 2019 general elections, but it was taking time since an alliance of that kind would have many things at stake, electorally and financially.
No matter how much the BJP tries to campaign, no matter how tall their promises are, the people have understood that they have been fooled.Akhilesh Yadav
He said that Modi might deliver one speech after another as he did in 2014 and in 2017, but all his unfulfilled promises are documented by the media and social media.