It is said that the road to Delhi goes through Uttar Pradesh. In the upcoming Assembly elections, the Bhartiya Janata Party has high hopes from the politically crucial state. Saswat Panigrahi of Zeenews.com caught up with BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh, who is on a campaign trail in the state.
Saswat: It is Ram Rajya, not Ram mandir – the BJP’s campaign theme in Uttar Pradesh elections this time?
Siddharth: BJP in any election has not used Ram mandir for political benefits. It has never been an election campaign. It was part of a movement by a large section of the Hindus in the country who felt oppressed because of the reverse discrimination policy being followed by the pseudo secular government. Ram temple movement was towards that awakening.
But, as far as Ram Rajya is concerned, it is the most appropriate method of governance. Therefore the BJP believes in Ram Rajya, because it empowers everybody, it brings social justice and at the same time it brings transparency. This also means development of all sections of society irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
Saswat: What are the key issues with which the party is going to the polls in UP?
Siddharth: For the first time BJP or any political party for that matter has given a vision for Uttar Pradesh, called ‘Vision 2020’.
Our vision is of development. The template is very clear. We are talking about infrastructure, education, agriculture and healthcare. We are committed to these with a track record which exists in the states governed by us.
For example, if we say that we will give 24/7 electricity to UP, we are sure that we will do it because there is a scheme under which the Gujarat government has given 24/7 electricity to the entire state. If we have spoken about the empowerment of women or girls then we have a scheme pertaining to the same in Madhya Pradesh. If we have said that the allotted rice or wheat will duly reach the BPL families, then there has to be a good Public Distribution System for the same. There is a model of PDS which exists in Chhattisgarh. If we have said that law and order can be improved in UP, we are talking on the basis of what we have done in Bihar.
We have a track record which no other political party has. I am happy that in competition with us, the Congress has also decided to bring their vision. But there are sharp contrasts. And there is no vision of SP and BSP.
Saswat: Would you like to comment on the present state of affairs in UP?
Siddharth: Truly speaking there is no governance in Uttar Pradesh. There is an administrative dictatorship which is going on. Mayawati was voted in 2007 with the hope of bringing law and order in the state. As there was jungle raj under the Samajwadi Party regime, there was a certain expectation from her. Unfortunately she did nothing except induct the same goondas and hooligans in her party and make them ministers. And on the eve of the Assembly elections, she has thrown some of them away from the party to project a clean image.
Under Mayawati’s rule there is complete lawlessness in the state. It is the worst state when it comes to the security of women. We all know how minors were tortured and raped inside police stations and no FIR was registered. There is no development of infrastructure in the state. And if any development at all, it is confined to Lucknow or Noida, which smacks of corruption.
Saswat: Is the BJP really in the pole position?
Siddharth: This time it is the voters’ choice. The question BJP would like to put in front of the voters is – What do you want UP to be and what is it that you are looking for? With this question being put forth, the voters will have no choice but to look at the BJP. Therefore, I am very confident that we are going to form the government in UP.
Saswat: In case of a hung Assembly will the BJP align with the BSP or SP?
Siddharth: There is a saying in English – ‘Once bitten, twice shy’. With the BSP we have had a coalition thrice. So we are many times shy on that front. And there is no way we will partner with the SP. Our party will prefer to sit in the opposition.
Saswat: What is your take on Congress’ promise of sub-quota for minorities from the existing 27% OBC quota?
Siddharth: It is a religion-based reservation and it has nothing to do with Muslim empowerment. It is basically vote bank politics.
What we are opposing is that there is a constitutional provision of 27% reservations for the backward community. It has nothing to do with any religion. People belonging to the minorities are covered under the OBC category. There are 55 Muslim communities presently covered under the ambit of OBC.
The Congress carving out 4 ½ % for minorities from the existing 27 % of OBC reservation and the SP talking about 18 per cent is highly unconstitutional. This communal agenda is going to divide the society and create frictions within the people of India.
We have stated that the UPA government’s sub-quota announcement is nothing but a poll gimmick. The Election Commission’s order to defer the minority quota further vindicates our stand. The EC has very rightly taken into account the fact that the decision on sub-quota was announced by the UPA government just two days before the model code came into force.
Saswat: Would you like to comment on Mulayam Singh Yadav’s sop promise for rape victims?
Siddharth: It is very irresponsible, highly objectionable and condemnable. What Mulayam Singh has said is that you get raped and we will pay you if we are in the government.
Saswat: Has the Babu Singh Kushwaha fiasco dented the BJP’s image?
Siddharth: Truly speaking it has not. But yes, there was a lot of talk around it. Nonetheless, it is more of a media and Opposition creation. There was no FIR when Babu Singh Kushwaha joined the BJP. And within 24 hours of his joining the party, a CBI raid was conducted at his residence and a FIR was registered against him. This smacks of political vendetta and there was a motive behind it. Now Babu Singh Kushwaha is not a part of the party. The party has suspended his membership. So the chapter is closed.
Saswat: But he is campaigning for the party.
Siddharth: He is not campaigning for the party. He is campaigning against the religious reservation of 4.5 %. He is telling the backward community of UP, “They are going to take away your right. And the only party which is supporting our cause is the BJP and it is the right party to vote for.”
Saswat: But, what prompted the party - which raises strong voice against corruption - to induct a NRHM scam accused?
Siddharth: Please look into the CBI chargesheet on the NRHM scam. There are few things which must be noted. One, in the NRHM scam, there were two CMO deaths apart from one deputy CMO, and recently, a project manager.
CBI under the Allahabad High Court is still continuing with the investigation. And the CBI’s reply to the HC says that one of the CMO Dr VK Arya – an honest, upright officer – brought in by nobody but Kushwaha was murdered by Deputy CMO Dr YS Sachan. Therefore, Dr Sachan was sent to jail. That was one link. The second is that Dr Sachan who was accused by the CBI for hiring killers to kill two CMOs was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a Lucknow jail. CBI said that it was a case of suicide and not a planned murder.
But the reality is that the CBI is a tool of the Congress and Mayawati is an insurance cover for the Congress. Therefore both used the CBI to give a cover up story for Dr Sachan.
That is precisely the reason why the full truth has not come out. So there is a background to it. There should be a fair trial to the case under the High Court or Supreme Court and an impartial inquiry by the CBI must take palce. If Kushwaha is guilty or if anybody is guilty, let the law of the land take its own course.
Saswat: Interestingly Kushwaha’s induction was made just three days after the party’s national secretary Kirti Somaiya produced a documentary evidence on the NRHM scam to the CBI, indicting Kushwaha.
Siddharth: It is a fact that regarding the NRHM scam we have given a list of names of politicians and bureaucrats who were at the helm of affairs to the CBI. One of them was Kushwaha. There was another minister whose reference was there. Moreover, Chief Minister Mayawati was also included in that list. So, why is selective action being taken against Khuswaha and not against others? Why is the CM not being investigated?
Saswat: It is said that Kushwaha’s route into the BJP was paved by party vice-president Vinay Katiyar.
Siddharth: Unlike the Congress or SP or BSP, in our party there is no single authority. Whatever decision we take, we take it collectively. That’s why it was a collective decision of the party.
Saswat: Well, it is not only Kushwaha. I have a long list of tainted names that the BJP has inducted and also given tickets to - Bhadshah Singh, Daddan Mishra, Chhatrapal Singh and Sacchidanand Hari Sakshi Maharaj.
Siddharth: There is something called the law of the land. If there are criminal proceedings, the court needs to convict them. As per the guidelines of the Election Commission, an individual is allowed to contest elections if not convicted by the court of law. That stands not only for the BJP but for all political parties.
All of us have candidates from criminal background. The SP has the highest number of such candidates, followed by the BSP, Congress and then the BJP. But the law of the land has to decide. As the law of the land exists today, Election Commission does allow people who have not been convicted to contest election.
Saswat: Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi said that the BJP veteran LK Advani took out his Jan Chetna yatra probably in search of those people.
Siddharth: Mr Rasid Alvi must be reminded of the recent Supreme Court judgement on the 2G scam. It is a tight slap on the functioning of the government. So he should remember that, instead of commenting on Advaniji’s Jan Chetna yatra.
Saswat: By inducting candidates thrown out by other parties, the BJP in Uttar Pradesh has been accused of turning into a dustbin. The accusation comes from some Congress members.
Siddharth: I am sorry. The Congress has the highest number of candidates coming from other parties. Digvijay Singh, the Congress general secretary and party in-charge of Uttar Pradesh has admitted that they have taken 40 per cent candidates from other parties – because their ability to win is the criteria.
Let me put the record straight. Out of all the candidates we have taken from other parties, majority were earlier in the BJP. They had gone to SP or BSP but their original root was the BJP. Now they have come back.
Saswat: BJP is using Sadhvi Uma Bharti as a trump card. Will it work?
Siddharth: Well, I am more than confident that it will work to the BJP’s advantage.