Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is used to getting scolded in public by his father, ‘Netaji’ Mulayam Singh Yadav. It happened again last week, when the president of the Samajwadi Party and self-declared ‘PM candidate’ gave his son and controversial minister Azam Khan a tongue-lashing while the 41-year-old CM was inaugurating schemes at his Lucknow residence hours before the election notification kicked in. “The actions of this government are harming the party...you are surrounded by sycophants. I know everything that is happening.” Akhilesh met Saba Naqvi soon after for an interview. Excerpts:
Doctors’ strike, riots, bad law & order and a scolding by your father...
Netaji is both my leader and my father. If he says something, I have to pay attention. Though sometimes I also get confused as to whether he is talking to me as a leader or a father (smiles).
Azam Khan is a discredited figure and many believe you make a mistake in projecting him as the Muslim face of your party.
Azam Khan and Netaji go back to the Babri Masjid days when firing was ordered on the kar sevaks. They’ve seen and felt a lot together.
Now netaji wants to be PM.
This election is about choosing a PM. If Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee both want to increase their strength by saying they will be PM, it is a good thing. Shows the pluralism of our country.
But most believe Modi is more likely to be the PM?
Whose voice is Modi’s voice? Crores of people of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are responsible for the prosperity of Gujarat that he talks of. Thousands of cadres of the RSS are working for him. Har manch mein Modi ka roop badalta hai (in every stage he changes his form). He wears every hat, why not one topi...
But secularism is in crisis and the kind of secular politics your party plays has also led to the growth of the BJP.
It is easy to be communal. Secular hona mushkil hai (it is difficult to be secular). UP is being circled by communal forces. What happened in Muzaffarnagar was a great tragedy and we did what we could. But we were not playing politics with that issue. The BJP and BSP did. Look how it has been done. One TV channel close to the BJP announces that warm clothes for Muzaffarnagar refugees will be collected in the Ambience Mall in Delhi three months after the riots. And look how the VHP has been actively stoking trouble all over in Jhansi, Faizabad. And every clash or incident is now described as communal.
You and Netaji are close to Sahara’s Subrata Roy who is now in jail...
Please check and you will find that Congress and BJP leaders also regularly met Saharashri. Our personal relations are separate from his dhanda. Does he interfere in our politics, we in his business? Yes, we have personal relations, that is all.
Will you visit him in jail?
I have visited so many people in jail, so let us see. We will abide by the law and Constitution.
So why is your party full of goondas?
When there is nothing left to say about the SP, we will be called the goonda party. I have three more years as CM and many things to do and will also hit the trail with a cycle campaign. You will see what people think of us. A man who overcomes hurdles is the man who moves ahead, a poet has said.
You are not putting up candidates against Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
When the Congress is in trouble, then we are its closest friends. There will be no SP candidates against the Big Two.
Do you support reservation for Jats?
I do not want to say anything about reservation as it is a sensitive issue and we have to take decisions as a party.