India Today - - COVER STORY -

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?”

Pho­to­graphs by BANDEEP SINGH

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