Congress' focus is 2022 UP polls, not this general election: Akhilesh Yadav

Samajwadi Party President and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav . | Photo: PTI
Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party president and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, rues that the educated and the elite of the society have become communalised. He says he tried his best to contest the ongoing Lok Sabha elections on the basis of “real issues” but failed amid the caste rhetoric. In an interview to Siddharth Kalhans, the 40-year-old leader spoke on the poll strategies of the alliance between Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Edited excerpts:

There is talk about differences within the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, lack of co-ordination and vote transfer.

The SP and the BSP have made a big sacrifice for this state and the nation. Where will you find that two prominent parties have agreed to leave 40 Lok Sabha seats for each other? But we did this, and today both parties are contesting this election together with full might. There are no differences. The leaders and workers of the two parties are united in their fight against the BJP.

The Congress failed to make place in your alliance, but it is heard that on many seats its candidates are helping SP-BSP in putting up a good fight against the BJP.

All this is nothing but rumours floated by the Congress itself. The alliance has decided not to have candidates in Amethi and Raebareli, and nothing beyond that. The Congress only wants to get sympathy by floating rumours that its candidates helped the alliance win. In fact, the Congress is not aiming at the 2019 Lok Sabha elections; it is concentrating on the 2022 assembly polls in UP.

The Congress is not interested in the post of PM and its aim is to have own CM in the next elections. We are fighting to save the nation, while the Congress is working hard to regain lost ground in UP.

The alliance, it seems, has given a walkover to strong BJP candidates in Lucknow, Varanasi and Allahabad.

I don’t agree with this. In Allahabad, our candidate is very strong and you will see the results. We have done a new experiment in Allahabad, where our candidate is an old party loyalist and well-known leader. About Lucknow, I would say that this seat was a stronghold of the Congress ever since independence, and later the BJP ruled here.

This time the alliance has fielded Poonam Sinha from here, and we want the elections to be contested on the basis of the work done. The SP and BSP governments have done a lot in Lucknow, unlike the BJP which could not complete one fourth of the outer ring road in the city. In the days of economic slowdown, when there were no takers for PPP projects, the SP government managed to get a private partner and constructed an international stadium. We named it Ikana stadium after the name of Lord Vishnu, and the BJP government after coming to power tried to change its name.

Be it metro rail, big parks or cycle tracks, you will see our developmental works everywhere, while the BJP cannot show a single one in the last five years.

In Varanasi, your candidate is weak compared to PM Modi.

PM Modi himself is contesting in Varanasi, but our candidate is not a weak one. The SP nominee in Varanasi, Shalini Yadav, comes from a prestigious family and her father-in-law was a Member of Parliament from there. She is young, and energetic.

The people of Varanasi will take their decision on the basis of the work. Tall promises were made (by the PM), but barely a few fulfilled. The PM had promised to convert Kashi into Kyoto and see what has been done. The Ganga river is yet to be cleaned and it is not possible unless Yamuna in Delhi is cleaned.

Despite a mega investors conclave and big MOUs, development is not a poll issue in UP.

All the claims on industrial development, investment and infrastructure development are false. True, there was an investor’s summit, and MOUs of several lakh crores were signed but nothing happened on ground. Tell me, one industrialist goes to Kolkata, Mumbai and Lucknow, and signs MOU of Rs 50,000 crore, but from where will they arrange funds (from)?

The economy is in bad shape and so are the banks. How will anyone invest in UP. If these claims were true, why UP CM is not seeking votes in the name of industrial development? UP’s industrial development has come to a halt.

If the alliance gets a good number of seats, who will be your PM candidate? 

We haven’t thought about this, but one thing is clear that there would be a new PM this time. We, the alliance and entire opposition, are going to change the PM on May 23. There are so many choices before us. There is no lack of good leaders in the Opposition, unlike BJP which has only one person. Let the time come and you will see a worthy and democratic name as prime minister.