Ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, top leaders including Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and BJP president Amit Shah today outlined their party’s agenda at India TV’s Chunav Manch conclave organised in Lucknow.
The session saw leaders discuss and defend their party’s stand on a host of issues that will set the tone for leaders seeking public support to cross the magic figure in the state to form their government.
The first guest on the talk show was CM Akhilesh Yadav. The leader exuded confidence of the Congress-SP alliance getting an overwhelming majority in the polls and retaining power.
"If 50 per cent of people who have benefited from schemes of my government vote for us, we will get 300 seats," he said.
Besides, Yadav made it clear that he had ‘no prime ministerial ambitions and was content with his job in the state’.
"I am content with my task in Uttar Pradesh and harbour no ambitions of becoming the Prime Minister of the country. People who stay away from Delhi are happier," he said in a lighter vein.
To a question on his overpowering clout over his father and former SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh sought to allay all controversy surrounding it.
"Samajwadi Party still belongs to him (Mulayam Singh). The 'cycle' belongs to him. The relationship is intact. The father-son relationship can never change. It was necessary to distance ourselves from people who ultimately wanted to harm the Samajwadi Party," he said referring to the bitter infighting in the Yadav clan.
"This is not an act of rebellion... Netaji (Mulayam) is above all of us in the party. The responsibility to take Samajwadi Party forward if now with the next generation," he said to a question on his upstaging of father Mulayam to take helm of party affairs.
He further said that Mulayam will campaign for the Congress-SP alliance in the state.
Akhilesh also sought to defend his government from allegations of a failure in law and order inb the state.
Attacking the BJP, he said, "People who are questioning law and order should tell how many sections (of the penal code) were slapped against them. Look at their national president and their state president. There were so many sections slapped against them."
The next guest was firebrand BJP leader Yogi Adityanath, who sought to play the religious card by raising the issue of Hindu exodus in Kairana, love jihad and anti-romeo squads.
“Yogi is not talking about today, Yogi is talking about future. Exodus is a very big issue for us,” he said, adding that the ‘BJP will not let western Uttar Pradesh turn into another Kashmir’.
He claimed that in eastern part of the state, both Hindu and Muslim population are completely safe.
“In Eastern UP, if a Hindu is safe, so is a Muslim,” the leader said.
“Love jihad was then an issue, it is still an issue,” he added.
While the BJP is looking to return to power after a gap of 14 years, the ruling SP is making all efforts to ensure it retains power and has joined hands with the Congress, which sees UP polls as an opportunity to revive its lost fortune ahead of 2019 polls.
BJP's Sudhanshu Trivedi, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi and Samajwadi Party’s Gaurav Bhatia locked horns in the next discussion.
Rejecting allegations that triple talaq issue was being raked up to polarise votes, Trivedi said that the issue was not one of religion but one of women’s rights.
“We do not see triple talaq from the prism of religion, this is a women’s rights issue for us,” he said at the mega conclave.
The issue of triple talaq was at the core of discussion in the session.
Attacking the BJP for seeking to impose the ideology of majority on minorities, Owaisi said India is a diverse country and every community cannot be brought under the Uniform Civil Code.
The session also saw a heated argument between Bhatia and Trivedi on the issue of development when the former questioned the latter on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of giving employment to 2 crore people.
Before the lunch session, former Union minister and senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid, BJP’s Jagdambika Pal and SP’s Naved Siddiqui shared the dais where they were seen defending their party’s stand on various issues.
While Khurshid termed the alliance between the grand old party and the SP as ‘historic’, Pal downplayed the pact calling it a ‘survival stunt’ by both the parties.
“We listened to the voice of people. It is a historic decision,” Khurshid said, prompting an instant reply from Pal.
“Samajwadi Party and the Congress will have to search for their existence after the polls. They have joined hands for survival,” Pal said.
The third speaker on the panel was Siddiqui who expressed confidence that people will vote in favour of the alliance to take the state ahead on the path of development.
Reacting to the family feud in state’s first family, he said, “The rift is an internal matter of the family. It shouldn’t be dragged outside.”
The next session also saw participation of leaders from the three leading political players in the state. While the SP was represented by Mulayam Singh’s younger daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav, Aditi Singh and Manoj Tiwari represented the Congress and the BJP, respectively.
Aparna, who is the latest entrant to politics from the Yadav clan, strongly defended charges of dynasty politics saying ‘she had been doing social work and was qualified enough to contest elections’.
Aparna, the SP candidate from Lucknow Cantt constituency in upcoming Assembly elections, is pitted against Rita Bahuguna Joshi of the BJP, who had quit the Congress last year to join the saffron party.
Aditi Singh, the daughter of Raebareli MLA ‘baahubali’ Akhilesh Singh, is contesting from her father’s seat in the Assembly election. She also defended the charge of dynasty politics, saying ‘it is the responsibility of children to take forward the work of their parents’.
“There is no advantage or disadvantage to me because of that. Any profession is tough for women and people do not see the hard work that a woman does,” Aparna, who is married to Mulayam’s younger son Prateek, said.
“We have seen our parents doing work in the region, they have worked hard and we have learnt all that and it is our responsibility to take forward the work of our parents,” Aditi said.
BJP MP Manoj Tiwari, conceded that, to an extent, there is dynasty politics in every party.
When questioned on the tickets handed to family members of senior BJP leaders, Tiwari said he rose to ranks in party through hard work despite his humble background.
The next session witnessed a heated round of debate which was mostly dominated by firebrand BJP leader Swami Prasad Maurya, former confidante of BSP supremo Mayawati.
Besides Maurya, BJP’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra and CM Akhilesh’s aide and legislator Udayveer Singh were two other speakers on the panel.
Maurya alleged that the “BSP is diagnosed with the ‘bimari’(illness) of money”.
“Mayawati compromised on the ideology of Ambedkar, hence I quit the BSP. Money is everything for Mayawati. Politics should be based on ideology and thoughts. But when a party compromises with its principles, it is time for a rethink,” he said.
Maurya also took the opportunity to laud Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s work, terming him the first ‘PM who delivers what he speaks’.
Maurya clarified that Mayawati’s denial of a ticket to him and his family members was not the reason why he dissociated himself from her.
“No party can deny a ticket to me. I joined the BJP because I was inspired by PM Narendra Modi,” he said, adding that if leaders were quitting their parties to join the BJP, it was certification of the party’s leadership.
He also rejected allegations that he lobbied for his son’s ticket.
Participating in the discussion, Patra launch an all-out attack on Mayawati and the alliance between the SP and Congress.
“24 rapes and 13 murders are reported daily in Uttar Pradesh,” he said and promised to bring the culprits to the book if BJP forms government.
“If Samajwadi Party has done development works in UP, what was the need of taking Congress party’s support?” he question.
“The backbone (Swami Prasad) of ‘elephant’ is now in BJP, you can imagine where the BSP stands now. The ‘cycle’ won’t be able to move with the ‘load’ of Rahul Gandhi,” he opined.
Udayveer Singh, who was the third speaker on the panel, highlighted that his party’s leadership took a tough stand against tainted leader by not giving them election tickets.
The day-long session later witnessed one more round of accusations being levelled by leaders of all the three parties against each other.
Hitting out at rival BJP, Congress leader Pramod Tiwari alleged that the saffron party has diverted from its core ideal that it will never compromise on Article 370.
Dubbing BJP's alliance with PDP as self contradictory, Tiwari said, "Mehooba Mufti said in Assembly that she would not let 370 be abolished and BJP formed the government with her."
The discussion also saw the participation of Patra and Samajwadi Party leader Abu Aazmi.
Responding to PM Modi's recent definition of SCAM (Samajwadi Congress Akhilesh Mayawati), Tiwari said SCAM stands for for Shivpal (MP CM), Corporation (Gujarat petroleum scam), Amit Shah and Modi.
Calling demonetisation the biggest scam of the 21st century, Tiwari alleged that the Prime Minister excels in making false promises.
Patra took a swipe at Congress, saying the grand old party's alliance with the SP cannot save it from sinking into oblivion.
"Since Rahul Gandhi has sat on this cycle, it will not move in Uttar Pradesh," Patra said, adding that Rahul was a failed missile that refuses to launch. “He did not launch from the khaat and will not launch from the carrier of the cycle either,” he said.
SP leader Abu Azmi said the SP had joined hands with Congress to defeat communal forces.
Lambasting BJP for trying to divide the country on religious lines, Azmi said the association with Congress was necessary to unite secular votes.
The last guest on the show was BJP president Amit Shah who claimed that “Akhilesh Yadav was sure to lose and BJP will form government”.
In an hour-long discussion with India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma, Shah targeted the opposition parties over dynasty politics while defending the BJP on similar allegations.
“Dynasty politics is when you go out of merit to bring someone in politics. We have considered the merit of the person while awarding tickets,” he said.
“There are only seven or eight sons of leaders among 400 candidates,” he added.
Taking on Samajwadi Party, Shah said, “If you look at their members of Parliament, they are all from a single family.”
On reservation he said, “Our stand on reservation is very clear. The status quo should be maintained. We are against religion-based reservation but reservation being provided currently should not be touched.”
The BJP leader also targeted CM Akhilesh Yadav on the issue of corruption as he referred to the Allahabad High Court had to remove the chairman of Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission.
He said that when BJP comes to power in UP, all these ‘scams’ will be investigated.
On alliance between the Congress and ruling SP, Shah said that the tie up was because Akhilesh realised that his party was going to lose in the upcoming polls.
“Samajwadi Party has accepted its defeat even before the elections and now has formed an alliance with the Congress,” Shah said, adding that Akhilesh can’t escape anti-incumbency factor.
Countering allegations that the BJP brings up the Ram Mandir issue only before elections, Shah said that his party will construct the temple in Ayodhya but the matter is pending before the court.
He said that the BJP has, in every election manifesto in the past, promised to construct Ram Temple, including in 2012 Assembly polls and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but cited judicial proceedings in the matter behind its inability to act on it.
Shah said that the BJP is contesting this election on the issue of corruption and law & order.
When quizzed about BJP’s CM face for the state, Shah said that the party was able to form governments in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana without a CM face and will do so again in UP.
Talking about the steps that Narendra Modi government has taken to fight black money, Shah said that Centre is trying to bring back the illegal wealth stashed in Swiss banks and is also trying to stop money going abroad.
He added that Centre’s demonetisation move was not an isolated action and was one part of the chain of actions that government has planned to fight corruption and black money.