Akhilesh Yadav, president of the Uttar Pradesh unit of the Samajwadi Party, tells Aditi Phadnis what his party’s agenda will be if it comes to power
Your party is seen as being opposed to big industries and anti-investment…
Not at all. It was during the regime of Netaji (former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, also Akhilesh’s father) that Uttar Pradesh got its first-ever Economic Development Council, which brought the top people in the field into the state, including Nandan Nilekani, who was then with Infosys, Kumaramangalam Birla and Anil Ambani. We conceded it is possible that politicians don’t understand business. So, the Development Council was mandated with overhauling and tweaking policies to bring investments to the state.
What we did specify was a positive bias to those industries which are linked with the interest of farmers. So, our government set up 29 sugar mills, which could produce power from bagasse, and we exempted them from taxes. The Tatas set up a bus plant, producing Marcopolo buses. The Anil Ambani group set up the Rosa thermal power plant, adding 600 Mw power with the provision of producing 1,200 Mw in the future. It was our government that set up the Anpara-C thermal power plant, given to Lanco, with 1,200 Mw capacity. Also, there is the hydel power plant at Srinagar, which was given to the GVK group.
The Dadri plant could not come up because of the opportunist agitation launched by V P Singh. Otherwise, Uttar Pradesh would have been a power-surplus state.
During the same period, hotelier Lalit Suri suggested our government should set up industries that involve skill development of young men and women in the state. We thought if the state was able to set up 12 to 15 world-class hotels before the Commonwealth Games, it would boost employment. So, we proposed hotel management courses as well as gave land to the Tatas, ITC, etc, to set up hotels in the state.
But when the Mayawati government came to power, the land allocation was cancelled, taking the case to the Supreme Court. The SC has now ordered the Noida authority to charge an additional Rs 70,000 per sq metre of land allotted for the 14 hotel sites. If the matter had not gone to the court, the hotels would have been ready, up and running by this time.
A charge often levelled against us is that we are against English. But it was Netaji who set up the Amity University, which is one of the finest universities in the region today. No one has been able to match the private medical colleges set up by our government. But, unfortunately, the government that succeeded us made a hash of medical education. I only need to give the example of the medical college cum hospital that was to come up in Azamgarh. The Mayawati government did not allow it to happen. We have also set up universities for minorities.
Many of these ideas came from a man, who you have now thrown out of the party…
There is good and bad in all of us.
Why does this perception still persist that the Samajwadi Party is narrow and backward-looking, as well as opposed to modern ideas?
Take a look at our manifesto. We are offering inter-colleges and midday meal schemes, especially in endemically backward areas such as Mirzapur and Bundelkhand. We are offering laptops with Hindi and Urdu softwares to students. We will build roads and increase connectivity, so that people in the most backward areas can also access progressive education.
I don’t think these are backward-looking objectives. In fact, Mayawati emphasises on the inferiority complex of Harijans. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party offer you fear and hatred. Ours is the only party that has a positive campaign. The Congress tried to cheat the Muslims in the name of 4.5 per cent reservation for them. This quota will not help the community in any way. The Samajwadi Party will provide more reservation for the Muslims on the basis of the Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission’s reports.
Your party is associated with a return of rowdyism and politics of thuggery on campuses…
Law and order will be the highest priority of our government. There is a committee in our party, under the leadership of Ramgopalji (Mulayam Singh Yadav’s brother), to scan the people who should be allowed to enter the party. As far as law and order is concerned, we want to set up CCTVs everywhere — in police stations, tourist and religious centres. This will serve as a deterrence to anti-social activities.
You are believed to have said on the record that if you come to power, you would auction statues of elephants and dismantle Ambedkar parks. How do you think the Dalits would react to such a statement?
I was misquoted. I never said statues would be auctioned. There is enough political space for everyone. Most of these parks occupy several acres of land — some span 600 acres. We would like to use the land in a better way — create aesthetically modelled medical colleges, research centres and information technology centres. We will seek advice from their (Mayawati-government appointed) architects! In fact, these complexes will be meant for the Dalits. Except they would be for their progress, and not for statues of individuals.
Your party is undergoing a transition, as the leadership is shifting from the hands of one generation to another. How are you going to manage it?
True, there have been some issues. Some things have come up. But there is no change in principles. The Samajwadi Party believes in equality and prosperity for all. The whole party is engaged in campaigning.
Who do you consider as your closest political ally in Uttar Pradesh, helping to form a government if you don’t get the numbers?
We will get a majority on our own. We won’t need any help from anyone. The people of Uttar Pradesh will ensure that.
Do you see yourself as the chief minister?
Netaji will be our chief minister.