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Millennium Post

Who knows, someday I might be the PM: Akhilesh Yadav

In the end, Akhilesh Yadav turned out by the real yuvraj of Uttar Pradesh, trouncing all and sundry with the slow pace of his umeed ki cycle. But, beyond all the hard political terrain he has covered and the legacy he has carried lies a thinking politcian keen to emerge out of his father and family's past with an agenda for the youth. He is keen to travel the path which has a pattern: the talk of IT, clean politics and jobs for the youth are the routes that his present and past compeers in Bihar (Nitish Kumar), Gujarat (Narendra Modi) and Andhra Pradesh (Chandrababu Naidu) have already taken. However, what Yadav offers as his USP is, perhaps, a socialist paradigm to achieve these tasks. He is keen, thus, to break away and maybe aim at New Delhi.

Excerpts from an interview with
Millennium Post:

How does it feel to be the youngest chief minister of Uttar Pradesh?

During the entire election campaign in Uttar Pradesh – right from the time I started out, be it the bicycle or rath yatras that we carried out – I never thought that I wanted to be the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. In fact, I am the youngest chief minister for any state in India. Even [Jammu and Kashmir chief minister] Omar Abdullah tweeted that now I was the youngest chief minister. [Omar had tweeted: 'Yey, I’m no longer going to be the youngest Chief Minister in the country ... Congratulations Akhilesh & all the best for the next five years.']

Clearly, this responsibility has been put on me [by the Samajwadi Party], and I have always done the work which has been allotted to me by the party. I was completely involved during the election campaign. We wanted that the Samajwadi Party should win and form the government, but I never aspired to be the chief minister. It was a decision taken by the party and then Netaji [Mulayam Singh Yadav] took the final decision on it. It is a big responsibility. What I would have learnt from experience gradually, I will now have to learn very quickly. This is an opportunity which luckily has come to me fast: I thought that I would have got it 10 to 15 years later. It is a huge responsibility, and my entire career depends on this now.

If I perform well then I know that people will like me. That’s why my entire campaign was based on umeed [hope]. We did it because we wanted to move ahead. We did not see anything wrong with any particular leader or party. Even Arindam Chaudhuri wrote a very nice article on me on how we had such a positive campaign, which is absolutely true. People believed in us when we said that we would bring change. The fact that I have been appointed chief minister at such a young age means that people do have a lot of expectations from me. The promises we have made about computers, laptops and tablets form a huge task for us. I am not the chief minister for the love of the post, but I am here to work and serve my party and people. No one should think that because I am the chief minister now, so things have changed. In fact, even today many people call me
bhaiyaji
lovingly.

Akhilesh Yadav was supposed to bring in a change in Uttar Pradesh. Does inducting people like Raja Bhaiya not create a hindrance in this task?

It does not matter. The cases against Raja Bhaiya have been filed by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). I know that many people say things like he runs a mafia, but these people should also be aware about who slammed these cases on him: it was the BSP. Mostly, these cases are false. I have always maintained that if any person plays with law and order situation, the Samajwadi Party will take strict action against them.

What about
the attacks on Dalits since the Samajwadi Party has won?

There have been no such attacks. We have told all party cadres clearly that no harm should come to Dalits at all. In fact, they should be helped as much as possible. This is the reason why the day our government was formed we announced that nothing would be done to the statues [erected by the Mayawati government] or haathis. I clearly said that none of them will be touched. All of them will remain intact in the similar manner they were before we came to power.

Do you aspire to be the prime minister of India some day?

In politics you never know what you will become next. Today you are in power, tomorrow the entire scenario may change. The political equations may change. How can you predict what happens tomorrow? If so many people can be considered for the post of prime minister, then why not I? We want the country to work on a socialist pattern. The example that we set in Uttar Pradesh will be applicable to every place in India. The time of the ideology that we have been fighting for for such a long time has come. So, it is our responsibility to present an ideal example for everyone to follow. We want equality and prosperity to prevail. We will have to work towards the welfare of people.

What was your strategy when you started campaigning for the Uttar Pradesh assembly election?

There was a lot of corruption in the state, which was perpetuated by the chief minister of the previous regime, who had been erecting her own statues. There were reports of money being misused which was meant for power, health and other sectors. The state needed money in these sectors. Instead, she put all that money into into her statues. The open and rampant corruption that Uttar Pradesh witnessed during the last BSP regime had never taken place in the state. Corruption took place in various government departments and building roads and flyovers. I do not think that at any other place corruption took place at such a massive scale. Also, there was no development in the state. These were some of the key issues we focused on [during the campaign]. Our main aim was how to make Uttar Pradesh a more progressive and prosperous state.

How has your political journey been till now?

It has been great till now. The graph has been continuously going up and has not come down till now. Right from 1999, when I became the youngest member of Parliament, I have been winning elections. When my wife lost the election from Firozabad in 2009, it was a learning experience for us. Now, I will have to leave my member of Parliament status to continue being the chief minister. I have seen a lot of victories and defeats. Earlier, I was a youth president of the Samajwadi Party. It is through consistent hard work that this has become possible.

What are the key areas that you want to focus on in bringing about a change in Uttar Pradesh?

Uttar Pradesh is such a big state. Each district has its own economy. For example Bhadoi has a great carpet industry; Lucknow has a market for chikan embroidery and zari and zardozi work as well as tourism. Faizabad is famous for bangles; Moradabad for brass work; Aligarh specialises in locks; Meerut for bats; Agra is famous for leather export and tourism; and Mathura and Allahabad are known for tourism. We need to focus on each of these districts and their respective economies. In the process, we plan to eradicate the middlemen completely. We also want four to six-lane roads. I have written a letter to the prime minister about building roads. I believe that it's with steps like this that gradually things will improve.

You have ardently promoted information technology in Uttar Pradesh. Tell us about your plans to devise a long-term policy for promoting IT in education?

Of course, it is a great idea and why not promote the IT industry in Uttar Pradesh? Ever since we have started promoting laptops and usage of computers, all industry people have become very positive about the Samajwadi Party. HCL has had no presence in the state, but it is now talking with us to set shop here. If we approach this correctly I am sure we can set up an IT park in Uttar Pradesh.

Will we have an IT park in Lucknow?

We will very soon have an IT park in Lucknow. The work for it is in the pipeline.

You have talked about working on feasibility reports on starting the Metro, monorail and bus rapid transport system in Lucknow.

That is true. I did ask for the feasibility report. For example, Kanpur it's a dead city, and even in Lucknow there is no mode of public transport. So, we have planned to introduce three modes of transport – monorail, Metro and bus rapid transport system. The most economical and best option for Lucknow will be BRT or Metro. Metro is slightly costly, but BRT is not. But, in a city like Benares, we cannot go ahead with such an idea. That is why the monorail option emerges as a good one. Everywhere cities are rapidly growing. We need to pay attention right now, as they will expand even faster in the coming years. We have to plan today for a better tomorrow. In the capital, this will definitely happen within this year.

You have recently issued directions that all pending projects in which over 80 per cent work had been done should be completed soon. What are your plans for achieving 10 per cent growth rate in the 12th five-year plan in this context?

I did say that. If we do not fix targets, nothing will happen. If we stop all earlier projects, our growth will be hampered. That is why I asserted that all the roads and over bridges which are under-construction will be completed. I feel that if governments change, people should not suffer. These people have now voted for us, and we must ensure that this work is completed.

What drove you towards choosing a political career?

My entire family is a part of the political arena. I did not have any other option but to join politics. My family made me participate and fight the first election. After I entered the political sphere I decided to completely dedicate myself to it.

How was your experience in Rashtriya Military School in Dholpur, Rajasthan? Your passion for hockey and football grew during these days.

My stay at the school was great. The main thing there was that they made everyone play each and every game. For us to excel we were made to play football, hockey and other games.

Then you moved on to Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering in Mysore. How was that experience?

There wasn’t much focus on sports there. We were a group of friends who played cricket and football regularly.

After this you moved to Sydney University to pursue a master’s degree in environmental engineering.

It was a completely different experience for me, as it was my first foreign trip. I witnessed a lot of development and prosperity there, which I still remember. I learnt a lot there and got a great exposure.

Who has inspired you and been your mentor?

I have been constantly inspired by Rammanohar Lohia's ideas on socialism, Netaji's work and, of course, Mahatma Gandhi's teachings. These three people have immensely inspired me. Janeshwar Mishraji – a senior leader of the Samajwadi Party – has always encouraged youth into politics. I clearly remember when I became the party leader, he sat with me and explained Lohiaji's socialist ideology and how in Phulphur he campaigned against Nehruji. He told me not to feel out of place amidst senior leaders of the party. He told me that I was the leader of the times to come. He said that in a socialist party like this, if a young leader like me did well, then he would be the happiest person.

Have you been able to revamp the image of your party after this election victory? Is it more youth-centric now?

Initially when we started work, I realised that youth was a very important section for us to include. We decided to keep all our advertisements and election ideology focused on this aspect. We wanted to bring in freshness and newness in the party, and I think we were successful in doing that, as people voted for us and brought us to power. It was important to integrate the youth element in our party while still maintaining its earlier image and ideals. Our main focus was to acquire the rural as well as urban vote, and we have been able to do so. No other party could think of the concept of a call centre for workers. This was a great idea, as we could connect with the workers directly. Now with the boom in technology, there are various things which have come up, such as social networking web sites. We had hired a company called Hungama to manage our campaign online.

What is your advice for India’s youth aspiring to be like you?

I would tell them that they should all have an aim in life. They should be determined and also hard working. Also, they should be positive. If you are a negative person, then you just cannot move ahead in life and achieve anything.

No one was thinking that the Samajwadi Party would come to power. I still remember when journalists asked me what I had in mind while carrying out the campaigns. I told them that it was through all the hard work that I had put in that the media discovered me. It is true that the media has found me now. But, if they had reported about my work earlier, it would have been helpful for me as well. It is only towards the end that the media developed a positive attitude towards me and started covering me. Even though I was extensively covered by the media during the last leg of my campaign, I must mention that this was the result of all the hard work which had gone in from all the earlier campaigns. People were dissuading me not to ride the bicycle from NOIDA to Agra. I told them that because age was on my side, and being the party's youth leader, if I could not motivate and inspire people today then I won’t be able to do so ever in the future too. So, we did go ahead with it, right from NOIDA to Agra covering about 160 kilometres on bicycles.

Tell us about your government’s plans to provide free medical treatment for serious ailments to the poor?

Netaji did it during his last tenure as chief minister as well. We have enough funds to take care of the medical treatment of the poor. It should be done: how else will they get money for a major operation? Be it a problem related to kidney, liver or any other serious ailment which affects them, they need a lot of money for treatment, which they sadly do not have. We, as the government of Uttar Pradesh, have decided to support them and want that all their medical treatment should be free of cost.

You have said that the relationship of your party with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government will be decided by Mulayam Singh Yadav. Please, elucidate.

The UPA government is safe now. We feel no need to destabilise it. But, if it falls on its own, we will not go out of the way to save it. We have got a majority in Uttar Pradesh, and we want to focus on making the state prosperous. If we start focusing on making the government fall at the Centre, then it's not a great thing to do. The government is doing fairly well, and we do not necessarily need to make it fall. The rest of the decisions related to this will be taken by Netaji.

Post victory, how do you balance your political career and personal life?

It is very hectic now. For example, I had to meet you one and a half hour back, but I am running behind schedule, because so many things came up suddenly. But, I will try and have one meal with my family everyday. It is very important to manage time, and without that life is incomplete. My children are small, and I need to spend time with them as well.

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