‘ENCOUNTERS ARE NOT THE POLICY OF THIS GOVERNMENT’
One year in office has made Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister YOGI ADITYANATH, known for his provocative statements, more circumspect in his views. In an hour-long interview with Group Editorial Director RAJ CHENGAPPA, India Today Hindi Editor ANSHUMAN TIWARI and Lucknow correspondent ASHISH MISRA, the yogi spoke on a range of topics. But while he remained firm in his views on controversial issues, he was careful about criticising his opponents. Excerpts from the interview
Q. Your critics accuse you of neglecting your state and campaigning in Karnataka instead. They also say you spend more time in Gorakhpur than in Lucknow.
In the past 15 years, none of the three chief ministers would have toured the state as much as I have done in just one year or be present in the chief minister’s office as much as I have been. We have rapidly implemented major schemes. No houses had been built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana between 2014 and 2017. We have provided 8.85 lakh houses to the poor. Consequently, Uttar Pradesh is now the number one state in implementing the public housing scheme. Under the prime minister’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, about 40 lakh individual toilets have been built for the poor in the state. Electricity has been provided to 56,000 villages and towns. Even after so many years of independence, 32 lakh houses did not have electricity connections. More than 1.2 lakh kilometres of roads were made free of potholes.
Q. If your government is doing so well, why did the BJP lose the Lok Sabha byelections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur?
The electoral defeat in Gorakhpur is a lesson for us. It was definitely the result of overconfidence in the party. Every worker was convinced that we would win the seat. But
“A parliamentary byelection is not a verdict on the state government. Local factors play an important role”
the scenario was different in Gorakhpur when I reached there just before the polls. The campaign work that should have been completed had not been done. Unfortunately, our candidate also fell ill at the time. The lesson we learnt is that even the smallest of things should not be taken lightly; every setback is a lesson for the future.
Q. Don’t you find it alarming that the party has lost two high-profile parliamentary polls just a year after the massive mandate in the assembly elections?
A parliamentary byelection is never considered a verdict on the state government. When the SP was in power, it would win most of the seats in Lok Sabha byelections, yet it was defeated in most places in the assembly election. Local factors play an important role in byelections. Q. What were your key focus areas in the one year that you have been chief minister?
Our priority was to improve the image of the state which was corroded by caste and dynastic politics. Uttar Pradesh was crippled by corruption and the law and order situation was appalling. Earlier, development schemes were formulated not on the basis of needs of the people but on caste considerations. We changed all this and focused on farmers, youth, women and the underprivileged sections. More than Rs 80,000 crore was transferred to the accounts of farmers through the DBT (direct benefit transfer) scheme. The outstanding dues of sugarcane farmers of around Rs 25,000 crore from 2012-13 to 201718 were settled by our government, and additional assistance of Rs 18,000 crore given to them this financial year. Nearly 250 development blocks in the state had been declared ‘dark zones’ by the government in 1994. The farmers in these zones could not get electricity connections for tubewells, and would run them on diesel. We monitored these blocks and succeeded in removing the ‘dark zone’ tag by providing tubewells to farmers. About 20,000 farmers, who could not pay electricity bills, were provided solar pumps. We are in the process of starting eight irrigation schemes that had been pending for years. Six of them began by March 31 and two will be completed soon. During the previous government’s rule, electricity was available only in four districts, 71 were getting hardly two-three hours of supply. Today, our government is successfully providing 18 hours of electricity to all of them.
Q. The farm loan waiver has taken a toll on the state’s budget, leaving no funds for other projects. The state is apparently broke!
When we came to power, the state’s treasury was empty and Uttar Pradesh was in a bad state. However, in the last one year, we have worked hard to improve the state’s image. Whether it was waiving farm loans, or starting several new schemes, all have been implemented from the state’s funds. We haven’t taken any fund from the Centre or banks nor issued any bond for the purpose of the waivers. First, we controlled unnecessary expenses and contained the misappropriation of funds in government schemes. In the process of verifying ration cards, we found that 30 lakh cards were fake. We streamlined several schemes of the state, including electrification, drinking water, irrigation and village welfare. The state’s financial condition remains a challenge. But I am happy to say that we worked within the limits of the FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget
“No caste conflict was reported in these incidents of (Dalit violence). People plotting violence in the name of Dalits have been exposed”
Management) Act. We shed all avoidable expenses and tried hard to ensure that each penny of the state exchequer was used in the interest of the people.
Q. Uttar Pradesh remains an industrially backward state. What have you done to encourage investments? Investment requires an improved law and order situation for smooth and swift clearances. I am glad we have succeeded in facilitating investment with smooth administrative approvals and a business-friendly environment. Today, investors notice an improved scenario in the state and it is regarded as among the most competent in the region. I am not saying this because I am the chief minister, investors participating in a summit held on February 21-22 felt that an investor-friendly era is here, finally. Investment MoUs worth Rs 4.68 lakh crore were signed during the summit. We will launch projects worth Rs 35,000 crore this month. But we had many challenges to face. Most of the development schemes were embroiled in litigation, owing to the poor governance of the past. When we took over, we found banks and financial institutions were reluctant to work with the government. Today, not only our commercial banks but also every global financial institution wants to finance projects in Uttar Pradesh.
Q. The disparity in development between eastern and western UP is glaring. What are you doing to address the issue?
There are many reasons for such inequalities. Our government has formulated schemes for the uniform development of every area in the state. Also, the state boasts of a rich heritage of traditional industries in every district. For example, brassware in Moradabad, hardware in Aligarh, glass crafts in Firozabad, crockery in Khurja. We celebrated the foundation day of the state after 68 years on January 24 this year. On this occasion, the ‘One District One Product’ scheme was launched. This will create employment opportunities for the youth.
Q. The Akhilesh Yadav government built the Lucknow Agra expressway. What are the infrastructure projects you are working on?
We are working on two new expressways—one connecting Lucknow to Poorvanchal via Ghazipur, Varanasi and Ballia and the other connecting the Bundelkhand expressway and Agra to Chitrakoot and Allahabad. We have sent the Detailed Project Report to the Centre for starting metro train services in three more cities and will start work on them as soon as we get the nod. We are working on two new international airports. The work has already started in Kushinagar and is expected to begin very soon at Jewar as well. After repairing all potholed roads, we are now working on connecting all district headquarters with four-laned roads. That is why I say that Uttar Pradesh is a state of immense possibilities. We have the most fertile land and huge water resources. Most importantly, we have a young and energetic work force. So Uttar Pradesh will not lag behind.
Q. What about creating jobs? Earlier, there was huge corruption in government recruitments. Whether it was the Public Service Commission or higher education or the police force, the court had to intervene in every process. We came up with new rules for transparent recruitment. We
have already completed the process of recruiting 3,000 sub-inspectors and 35,000 constables. Overall, around four lakh employment opportunities were generated across government departments. Under the Prime Minister’s Skill Development Scheme, we have enrolled six lakh youth of whom 4.5 lakh have completed their training. Two lakh people have been placed in various enterprises.
Q. You have claimed that the law and order situation has improved. Yet, there are charges against the state police of fake encounters to eliminate alleged criminals. Encounter is not the policy of our government. The government is responsible for the security of each and every citizen. If a criminal fires at the police, the police can retaliate in self-defence. None of these encounters was fake.
Q. Caste conflicts are on the rise in Uttar Pradesh. The recent agitation by the Dalits is an example. What is your government doing about it?
There has never been any clash between upper castes and scheduled castes in the state. We have 75 districts, there were only three-four districts where cases of arson were reported during the recent Bharat Bandh. There was no caste conflict behind these incidents. People who were plotting violence in the name of Dalits have also been exposed and we have taken stern action against them.
Q. Why are the Dalits outraged?
This is not a case of Dalit aggression at all. This is nothing but a sponsored drama by those who want to politicise the Dalit issue or use them as pawns. No one has done more for the Dalits than the BJP.
Q. You have added ‘Ramji’ to Babasaheb Ambedkar’s name. Isn’t this tokenism?
The government received two proposals. One was from the Governor that his name was ‘Aambedkar’ and not ‘Ambedkar’ and that Babasaheb signed the original copy of the Constitution as ‘Bheemrao Ramjee Aambedkar’, hence, his name must reflect the same. The second one was from the Ambedkar Mahasabha that requested that all state government offices have a picture of Babasaheb. We implemented both the proposals simultaneously.
Q. Do you think Dalit anger against the Supreme Court judgment on the SC and ST Atrocities Act is justified? In a democracy, everyone has a right to put forward one’s views. But people resorting to violent demonstrations in the name of Dalits are bound to be exposed. Their real intentions will finally be known. Secondly, the judgment of the Supreme Court is nothing new. Almost 11 years ago, the Mayawati government had passed almost the same order. The central government has already given an assurance that it would submit a review petition in the apex court.
Q. Don’t you think the development agenda has been overtaken by Hindutva?
Hindutva and development are not separate, rather they are complementary. The Hindu way of life or Hindutva is the basis of life in India. Why do you link it with religion or see it in a communal light? It is Hindutva that says ‘Sarve bhavantu sukhina’, ‘Vasudhaiv kutumbakam’; we are talking of ‘sabka saath, sab ka vikas’. After all, this is the Indian viewpoint. We should be proud that we have some of the world’s best tourist destinations in Uttar Pradesh. We have Ayodhya, Mathura, Kashi, Prayagraj, Ganga, Yamuna, Shaktipeethas, several eco-tourism circuits and endless opportunities for heritage tourism. My government will try to promote these.
Q. You declared in the state assembly that you will not celebrate Eid. Is it okay for a chief minister to say something like this? Each individual has the freedom to follow his own faith. I cannot recite Hanuman chalisa at home and wear a skull cap outside just to attract votes. It is my responsibility that without losing my identity I must ensure a peaceful environment for people of all faiths so that they can follow their beliefs. My government has been successful on this
“I can’t recite Hanuman chalisa at home and step out wearing a skull cap just to attract votes”
front in the past one year.
Q. Why is the BJP not able to inspire confidence among Muslims?
All citizens are free to exercise their rights under the Constitution. We have implemented all schemes of good governance without prejudice against anyone. Now, it is up to the public to decide whether they support ‘development’ or ‘destruction’.
Q. Have you changed your stand on love jihad after becoming chief minister?
After taking charge of the state, we have worked towards ensuring the safety of women. We have initiated the 1090 helpline for the purpose, and the 181 helpline to curb domestic violence. We have formed anti-Romeo squads for women’s safety. We will not allow anti-social or anti-national elements to flourish in Uttar Pradesh in the name of love.
Q. Presuming that the Supreme Court gives its verdict in the Ayodhya case as a title suit, what kind of temple would you like to build on the site?
The September 30, 2010 verdict by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court proves everything. This was not an issue about the division of the disputed land. The issue was identifying what exactly the dispute was. All three judges unanimously accepted that the Ramjanmabhoomi is where Ramlalla’s idol had been installed. Now there is nothing that has to be decided on a religious basis. The only thing that has to be decided now is whether there is to be any division or not. The Supreme Court is hearing the matter.
Q. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has taken the lead in trying to engineer an amicable out-of-court solution between the Hindu and Muslim parties in court. Why don’t you as chief minister take charge of this initiative?
First, the government is not a party to this. Secondly, it would have been best had the solution come though a dialogue. These things should have been done much earlier. It is not as though there haven’t been efforts in the past; Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati had taken such an initiative. So had others. But who abandoned the talks in the middle? Now this is the issue in the Supreme Court. We should move forward in a peaceful and cordial manner on this issue.
Q. How much does the RSS interfere in the functioning of your government?
The RSS is the largest social organisation in the world and it does not interfere in the affairs of the government.
Q. Why is the BJP so desperate to win elections that it opens its doors to all kinds of individuals, including tainted ones like Naresh Agrawal?
The BJP is a large family and if someone comes to us with a commitment towards our values and principles, then it should not be opposed.
Q. Is the proposed grand alliance between the SP and the BSP a big challenge for you?
Every organisation, every political party, has a right to opt for mutually beneficial agreements and alliances. The SP, BSP and the Congress can be a part of this tie-up. But first they need to decide who will lead such an alliance. Mayawati, Rahul or someone else?
Q. For the 2019 general elections, how big is the threat of anti-incumbency in Uttar Pradesh?
There is no anti-incumbency in Uttar Pradesh.
Q. You are a yogi. Do you enjoy wielding political power? Is assuming such a position of power the right path for a yogi to follow?
This position is not for enjoyment. This is for the service of the nation and society. I don’t have a personal life. Whatever I have is for the country and society. There are instances of yogis and sanyasis taking up the responsibility when kings go astray. Only a yogi or a sanyasi can deliver better results.
“Let them first decide the leadership of such an alliance [against the BJP]. Who’ll lead it? Mayawati, Rahul or someone else?”