Beni Prasad Verma is a seasoned politician from Uttar Pradesh, the hub of recent political activity hogging limelight. He was recently made the Steel Minister in the Manmohan Singh government.
In a conversation with Swati Chaturvedi of Zeenews.com on her chat show Kahiye Janab, Verma talks about the upcoming UP elections, Rahul’s padyatra for farmers and more.
Here are the excerpts:
Swati: The elections in UP are just 8 months away. A lot of development related to land acquisition has taken place in the recent past. For example, Rahul Gandhi`s fight for farmers` rights, the Kisan Mahapanchayat etc. So, what do you have to say about it?
Verma: This time the UP elections will not just be for the change of government. In fact, they will be about Congress`s return to power. Rahul`s `padyatra` has been highly criticized by the opposition. But the criticism holds no meaning. At least Rahul Gandhi personally went to meet the farmers, travelled 75-80 kms on foot, and conducted the Mahapanchayat. It’s the responsibility of every minister to meet the common man personally. These things cannot be done by the BJP ministers. They`ll not be able to survive in such situations.
Swati: Mayawati`s government in UP has been in power for almost 5 years. Farmers in Maharashtra have attempted suicides. They have faced a lot of injustice. Mamata Banerjee has kind of even blackmailed the government on the Land Acquisition Act. Still the government has done nothing. Why?
Verma: This is just a way of criticizing things. When the farmers in Maharashtra were in trouble, it was only the Congress which gave them a big package for their rehabilitation. Rahul Gandhi went from village to village. It was only then that Kalawati came to be known. Rahul goes to every place where the common man is in trouble.
Swati: Are the government and Congress able to understand the problems of the common man? It seems as if Rahul Gandhi himself is against some of Congress` policies.
Verma: No, Rahul is following the policies of the Congress party. He is the general secretary of the party and is the heir of the Gandhi-Nehru family. Every member of the party looks up to him.
Swati: You are saying that every Congress member follows Rahul Gandhi. But when Rahul visited the homes of dalits, along with some Congress ministers, it was very sad to see that the ministers had carried their own beds and ordered their own food. What kind of behaviour is this? Don`t you think this is an insult to the dalits?
Verma: Not everyone, but yes some of them did do it. I agree that it was wrong. The way Rahul goes to meet dalits, stays with them overnight, has food with them... But this is an old issue now. No one has the courage to do the same thing again. The senior ministers of the party carry the responsibility of being an example to the other party members. Rahul Gandhi is showing the way to connect with the common man to the party as well as to the people of the country. Members of other political parties cannot do the same and therefore they criticize him. Congress members are trying their best to follow the path charted by Rahul.
Swati: People say that you and Digvijay Singh are Rahul`s pillars in UP. Somewhere people are jealous about the fact that Rahul likes you so much. What is so special about you that he likes?
Verma: As I said earlier, Rahul Gandhi meets the farmers, understands the problems of the common man, eats with them, walks for miles on foot, and holds the `Mahapanchayat`. I was also born in a farmer`s family. I know the kind of problems the farmers of our country face. Rahul thinks that I fit-in. This is the only reason.
Swati: And what about the people who are jealous?
Verma: See, this kind of behaviour is very common in political circles. I feel that instead of thinking about such issues, politicians should selflessly and sincerely work for their respective parties.
Swati: Look at the state of UP today. Murders, rapes, excesses on farmers… everything is taking place in Mayawati`s rule. But the opposition looks helpless. It is unable to do anything about it. What do you have to say?
Verma: When Mulayam Singh Yadav was in power in UP, people were really unhappy. Mayawati is a Dalit`s daughter; this is her biggest strength. But when she won with an absolute majority, it came as a surprise to everyone. However, people are now regretting their decision. Since UP elections are approaching, I strongly hope that the people will keep Congress and Rahul Gandhi in their minds.
Swati: Congress is not a strong political player in UP. What will Rahul Gandhi do about it?
Verma: Congress won 22 seats in UP in the 2009 parliamentary elections. People have started to recognize the work done by our party members. Our voter base has jumped to 20 percent from 8 percent earlier.
Swati: Inspite of you being such an experienced minister, you were not given a Cabinet rank in the UPA government when it came to power. Don`t you think it is an insult to you and the state you represent?
Verma: Although I was a senior politician in the UP politics, but was junior in the Congress. But today, I am a member of the Congress Working Committee, as well as a Cabinet minister. The Congress has not only given me an important portfolio but a lot of respect too.
Swati: What according to you are the issues faced by the people of UP?
Verma: Police excesses, corruption, injustice to farmers and the common man are some of the issues affecting the growth of UP. People are really unhappy with Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati. And now, they are looking up to the Congress.
Swati: Don`t you think Congress is more like a dynastic party than a democratic party?
Verma: Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have sacrificed so much for the country. According to me, they are the real leaders. Therefore, it is completely justified if they are taking all the decisions for the party.
Swati: People say that if PM has a clean image, then why did he let such major corruption scams happen?
Verma: Scandals took place during the BJP government as well, but nobody was punished. But here, the people who were involved in the scandals have not only been punished but some of them have also been put behind bars.
Swati: After the 2G scam, people believe that Rahul Gandhi will “come up”. What do you think?
Verma: Rahul Gandhi will have to come up now. No force can stop him. BJP leaders have no leadership qualities and other parties hold no meaning. Nobody possesses the ``All India level" craze like Rahul and there is no strong national level party like the Congress.
Swati: Digvijay Singh thinks that its high time Rahul Gandhi should become the PM now. What do you have to say on this?
Verma: PM Manmohan Singh is a very experienced person. Rahul really respects him. Even the PM wants Rahul Gandhi to be his successor. He relates with the problems of the common man, the farmers. This is a unique quality that no one else has. He is showing a new path to the country.
Swati: People feel that whatever Rahul Gandhi is doing nowadays in Uttar Pradesh is a show-off. Your comment.
Verma: As I said, people have a habit of criticizing others. Rahul is personally going to the villages to understand the problems of the people. He is doing everything he can for the common man.
Swati: My last question... where will you fit-in in Rahul Gandhi`s team?
Verma: It is my biggest dream to see Rahul Gandhi become the prime minister of India. I am ready to do whatever work he will allot me.
Adaptation: Heena Mann