‘BJP WILL RULE INDIA FOR THE NEXT 50 YEARS’
An exclusive interview with Yogi Adityanath as he completes two and a half years as chief minister
The journey of Yogi Adityanath, from being the mahant of a prominent religious order to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, was meteoric. Equally interesting is his rise as an administrator with an incorruptible, no-nonsense image. Completing two-and-a-half years in office, Adityanath spoke about his mission and vision for U.P. to Group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa, Senior Deputy Editor Uday Mahurkar, INDIA TODAY (Hindi) Editor Anshuman Tiwari, and Assistant Editor Ashish Misra at his Lucknow residence. Excerpts:
Q.Before coming to power in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP swore by the slogan ‘Na bhrashtachar, na goonda
raj (Neither corruption nor rule of goons)’. Has the Yogi Adityanath government lived up to this call? A. One needs to see our government’s achievements in the light of what we inherited from the Akhilesh [Yadav] regime. We inherited anarchy, chaos, corruption and a culture of murder and loot. The public’s trust stood shattered. The courts had put a stay on [various government] recruitments. There was corruption in recruitments and transfers and postings [of officials]. Nepotism, casteism and communal riots had come to be the state’s identity. After almost two-and-a-half years of BJP rule, we can firmly say that under the guidance of our visionary prime minister, we have changed this perception of UP.
Q. What effect has this ‘change of perception’ brought about on the ground in the state?
A. Look at the way industrial investment has grown. Our officials wanted to hold a global investors’ summit with the aim of attracting investment to the tune of
Rs 20,000 crore. But I felt a global summit should bring in investment assurances worth no less than Rs 2 lakh crore. We worked hard and, eventually, secured investment promises worth Rs 5 lakh crore at the summit. These proposals are fast turning into reality—a groundbreaking ceremony for proposals worth Rs 1.25 lakh crore has already been held. Investment worth another Rs 65,000 crore is in the pipeline. Since we came to power, around Rs 2.5 lakh crore has been invested in UP. Today, every industrialist at home and abroad wants to invest in UP. Investors believe the state is free from the grip of bureaucratic hurdles and red tape. Our drive against corruption and goonda raj produced a bounty. Industrialists feel UP is now a safe place for investment. We brought about this change through the same administration and officials.
Three major events define the change we have ushered in—the Kumbh in Prayagraj, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Varanasi and the peaceful conduct of the Lok Sabha election. Kumbh was indeed the high point. With the PM’s guidance, the state machinery worked as a team. The result was that 240 million devotees attended the Kumbh. There were no accidents, no stampedes. There was no filth. For the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, we had estimated 3,000 participants; some 7,000 attended. Hotels proved insufficient, so we created a tented city. During the Lok Sabha election, voting was held at 163,000 booths in seven phases, without any untoward incident anywhere. In sharp contrast, voting in West Bengal, which has half the number of booths in UP, was marred by repeated violence and deaths. These events prove that UP and its machinery are on the right track and our government has gained the trust of the commoner. We have fulfilled the trust reposed in us by Narendra Modiji and Amit Shahji. We feel satisfied.
Q. Central government data suggests the unemployment rate in UP has doubled in the past two years and stands at 16 per cent. Why would unemployment figures go up when investment is coming into the state?
A. These might be old figures. New data points to UP emerging as one of the states with the highest exports. Exports have grown by 28 per cent in the past one year and our performance has been much better than of other states. We have provided 225,000 jobs in the government sector and there have been no complaints about the recruitment process—this in a state that was notorious for corruption and nepotism in government jobs.
The way our traditional businesses expanded their exports, under the ‘One District, One Product’ scheme, is a story in itself. UP has clusters of traditional business in every district. We improved the mapping, marketing and branding of our products and increased exports by about Rs 25,000 crore in just one year. Today, our total exports are to the tune of Rs 1.14 lakh crore. We created 450,000 jobs. But our target is to generate 2.5 million jobs under the ‘One District, One Product’ scheme.
I have interacted with the state’s brass industry—exports from Moradabad alone have increased manifold. What made this possible was the 24-hour power supply and a sense of security among traders due to the end of goonda raj. One trader came and congratulated me, saying he has not encountered a single extortionist in the past 18 months. I got similar feedback during my interactions with the carpet exporters of Bhadohi. The region accounts for almost half of the country’s carpet exports worth Rs 8,000 crore.
UP has chalked out a policy focused on its different sectors. We have 21 policies for the various sectors. Scores of youths are getting employed through the UP Skill Development Mission. We have already generated 140 million jobs under MNREGA, and our target this year is 250 million jobs.
Q. How did you prepare yourself for the job of leading a challenging state like UP?
A. When I took over in March 2017, I had no experience in governance. My team, too, was mostly new. Recently, we restructured the cabinet based on performance and certain norms. Now, we are doing better work as a
“SINCE WE CAME TO POWER, AROUND Rs 2.5 LAKH CRORE HAS BEEN INVESTED IN UP. TODAY, EVERY INDUSTRIALIST WANTS TO INVEST HERE”
team. After assuming office, I decided to take presentations from every department in order to understand the ground situation in every sector. This helped me gauge the magnitude of the challenge, set targets and devise tools to measure performance. Ministers, too, would hold meetings with their department officials and watch the presentations. This detailed approach has been one of the main reasons behind our success despite the obstacles. Now, we need to increase our pace and develop the ability to not only lead but improve our decision-making process.
With this purpose, I visited IIM (Indian Institute of Management)-Lucknow (on September 8) with my entire cabinet to attend the ‘Manthan’ leadership development programme. I wanted it to be a refresher course. Almost every minister attended the event for nine hours, with full commitment, and took part in the discussions. We learnt that the ability to take decisions is very critical to good governance. We are holding a second training course at the IIM on September 15. It will be followed by a third course and then a concluding session—all aimed at improving governance in order to realise the aim of making UP a $1 trillion economy. Q. How do you rate your track record in core governance? A. The agro sector has been one of our big achievements. Today, UP tops in foodgrain production because of the improved irrigation facilities, modern agro techniques and effective procurement policy introduced by my government. Other governments in the past 15 years never ran any meaningful agro or irrigation programme, which led to farmer suicides. UP didn’t have any procurement policy. Take the example of the Bansagar irrigation project. It was approved in 1973 and the foundation stone was laid by the late PM Morarji Desai in 1978. When we came to power, it was still incomplete. We completed the project within a year. It has brought over 150,000 hectares under irrigation, and with the introduction of drip irrigation, its irrigation potential will increase to 400,000 hectares. About 170,000 farmers are directly benefitting from the project. We are working on some other irrigation projects pending for the past 50 years. They will be operational by the year-end, taking our additional irrigation potential to 1.4 million hectares.
Another shocking example of poor governance and massive corruption by previous governments is the state of sugar mills. Sugar mills in the state were shutting down and being sold at throwaway prices. When we came to power, payments to sugarcane farmers were due for the past five years. We drew up an action plan and approached the owners and managers of all sugar mills. Thanks to our sincere efforts, we have already paid Rs 73,000 crore to the farmers whereas the previous government couldn’t pay even Rs 50,000 crore in five years. We are not only reviving sugar mills that shut down but also helping new ones come up. Two new sugar mills have come up and will start production in this season. The expansion of the sugar mill at Chaudhary Charan Singh’s village (in Baghpat)—pending for 30 years—has been approved. We have also launched a policy for encouraging production of ethanol. The sugarcane industry is on track now.
“THREE MAJOR EVENTS DEFINE THE CHANGE WE HAVE BROUGHT— KUMBH IN PRAYAGRAJ, PRAVASI BHARATIYA DIVAS IN VARANASI AND THE PEACEFUL CONDUCT OF THE LOK SABHA ELECTION”
On the power front, generation and consumption of electricity has doubled since we came to power. Against the 3-4 hour supply earlier, the district headquarters now get almost 24 hours of power. In the tehsil headquarters, supply has gone up to 18-20 hours and about 16-18 hours in the rural belt.
Q. Your government has big plans to develop expressways and airports and provide cutting-edge connectivity in the state.
A. For us, expressways are not a medium to benefit a particular party. We have started three expressway projects with the aim of making them the lifeline of UP. The Purvanchal and Bundelkhand expressways are being constructed to help develop the economically weaker regions by providing them connectivity. Varanasi and Gorakhpur in Purvanchal have seen development, but areas in the middle remain underdeveloped. The first stretch of the Purvanchal expressway, connecting Lucknow, Barabanki, Raebareli, Amethi, Ayodhya, Ambedkar Nagar, Sultanpur, Azamgarh and Ghazipur, will usher in development. We are extending it to Ballia. Akhilesh Yadav laid the foundation stone for the Purvanchal expressway in December 2016, but work did not start until May 2017. I learnt that they had allotted contracts worth Rs 15,800 crore without acquiring land for the project—something unimaginable! We started land acquisition and by March 2018 were able to acquire around 96 per cent of the required land. During the bidding process, the contracts that the Akhilesh Yadav government had given for Rs 15,800 crore went for less than Rs 12,000 crore. This shows the extent of loot that had been going on. The expressway will open to general public in August 2020.
We are developing industrial clusters along the expressway and have also sanctioned a university near it in Azamgarh, all in keeping with our vision that expressways should be the true pathways of development. On the Bundelkhand expressway, which will connect Agra to Chitrakoot, we are planning a defence manufacturing corridor. Then there’s the Meerut-Prayagraj Ganga expressway. The three expressways will become the backbone of UP’s economy.
When we came to power, only a couple of airports were functional. Now, apart from Lucknow, Varanasi and Gorakhpur, Prayagraj, Kanpur and Agra airports are also operational. Work is in progress at 11 more airports. By September, we will complete acquisition of 85 per cent of the land needed
“WE PAID Rs 73,000 CRORE IN DUES TO SUGARCANE FARMERS. THE PREVIOUS REGIME COULDN’T PAY EVEN Rs 50,000 CRORE IN FIVE YEARS”
for these projects. The Jewar airport will be the country’s biggest, spanning about 4,000 acres. Development of waterways is also on our agenda.
Q. How do you see your journey from being the of a prominent religious order to the chief minister of India’s largest state?
A. When I became chief minister, I had no experience or idea how governments function. I was an MP and a yogi at the Gorakhnath mutt. But we were lucky that the most visionary person in the world was our leader. There is no planner like our PM. He taught us to move forward with a positive attitude. He taught us how to turn challenges into opportunities. As a yogi, I had inherited public values and qualities such as devotion to duty. In this culture, religion is linked to duty and public welfare. As a mahant, I ran several social service projects. In that sense, I had some experience of running the administration with the right sense of duty. I had already been MP for several terms. All this proved useful when I took over as chief minister. Q. The cow is a sensitive issue not only in UP but across the country. What has your government done for the preservation of cows?
A. There are two issues here: the protection of cows and their preservation through the introduction of improved and healthier breeds. To protect cows, we banned illegal abattoirs as soon as we came to power. I was aware that banning the illegal slaughterhouses would raise questions about [the management of] the abandoned animals. So we chalked out an elaborate policy. Gaushalas that had shut down were reactivated. A part of the 54,000 hectares freed from the land mafia in the state was used to build new cow shelters, using the special cow cess levied on foreign liquor. Incentives were announced for farmers willing to keep up to four unproductive cows. Indian cow breeds, such as Ganga, Sahiwal, Gir and Tharparkar, are being encouraged through incentive-based policies.
Q. Law and order has been one of your government’s high priorities. Has the UP police been given additional powers for the purpose? A. The police used to be politicised. There was massive corruption and nepotism in police recruitments, transfers and postings. Not just rules and regulations, our government is using technology to curb corruption in the police. We have made the force more independent. Maintaining law and order without discrimination is their top priority.
Q. Samajwadi Party MP Azam Khan’s name has been put on the UP government’s online list of land mafia. A. This (action against land mafia) is taking place everywhere. We believe the land mafia has been one of the main reasons behind the sorry state of politics and administration in UP. I have not lodged any FIR against anyone; it’s the revenue department and the district magistrates who are taking action. Everything will be done as per the law, be it [in] Rampur (Khan’s stronghold) or Sonbhadra. In Sonbhadra, more than 100,000 bighas have been encroached upon by Congress leaders by forming bogus agricultural societies. We are going to
take major action there.
Q. How is the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis being contained in the state?
A. We have succeeded against encephalitis due to teamwork and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. I have been fighting this menace for 21 years now. As an MP, I have repeatedly raised the matter in Parliament since 1998. As chief minister, I realised the solution lay in vaccination, promoting hygiene and providing clean drinking water. In the past four decades, more than 50,000 children in 38 districts of eastern UP have died of encephalitis. The Swachh Bharat Mission has played an important role in reducing outbreaks in the state. We are running four to five annual programmes against water-borne diseases by successfully coordinating the efforts of the health and other departments.
Q. What is your action plan for Ayodhya?
A. Ayodhya is a holy site, so it is the responsibility of my government to develop the city accordingly. The Ram Janmabhoomi issue is in the Supreme Court. We are hopeful of a favourable verdict.
Q. Some analysts predict that the BJP will rule at the Centre for the next two decades, with Modi as PM, followed by Amit Shah and then Yogi Adityanath.
A. The BJP is going to rule India for the next 50 years. Modiji and Amit Shahji have offered a perfect model of governance that ensures development, security and prosperity of the people. India is poised to scale great heights. As for me, I shall continue to work as an ordinary worker of the BJP. ■
“AYODHYA IS A HOLY SITE. IT’S MY GOVERNMENT’S DUTY TO DEVELOP IT ACCORDINGLY. ON THE MANDIR ISSUE, WE HOPE FOR A FAVOURABLE VERDICT”