Azad Samaj Party President Chandra Shekhar Aazad is contesting against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from the Goarakhpur Assembly seat. Aazad is confident of his win and his party becoming the kingmaker.
In an exclusive conversation with IANS, Aazad spoke on several issues regarding the state Assembly elections, including his reasons for contesting from the Gorakhpur Assembly constituency. He claims that hundreds of people, including many BJP leaders have asked him to contest the elections as they are upset with the saffron party. Azad promises to pose a formidable political challenge to the BJP.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Q: What are your expectations while entering the political fray and how many seats are you sure of winning this time?
A: My expectations are democratic, even if a party has won only a single vote, it hopes that it will form the government. My party has been working hard for the last six years. My party has worked for the welfare of the marginalised and deprived sections of the society such as Dalits, backward castes, Muslims, etc. Our party has worked extensively on the issues concerning women, farmers and employment. The common man is angry with all other party leaders except ours as all these parties have been in power in the past. People are disappointed with all other parties as they are not getting employment while inflation across the country is at an all-time high.
My party is contesting in all 403 Assembly constituencies. Only time will tell which party has the people’s support. I don’t want to make tall claims and only believe in working hard. My party knows how to work on the ground, how to fight and has struggled a lot. Today incompetent people are running the country who neither know the constitution nor use parliamentary language. The ruling party only wants to deflect the people’s attention from development and other important issues by doing the politics of religious polarisation.
Q: You are contesting election from the Gorakhpur Assembly constituency, which is a stronghold of the BJP. Are you not committing suicide with such a political decision?
A: “If Gorakhpur is indeed a stronghold of the BJP, then how did it slip away from them during the UP bypolls when the BJP was in the government both in the state and at the Centre. If it is indeed BJP’s stronghold, why then have so many top leaders quit the party in the state? Each and every vote is important which decides who the people choose as an MLA. Yogi ji is also contesting elections for the first time as am I. The people of Uttar Pradesh gave Yogi Ji five years, yet Gorakhpur is in shambles.”
“Murders are frequently happening in Gorakhpur. Hundreds of children are dying due to Japanese Encephalitis while the BJP government is in power. As many as 122 people have been allegedly booked under the stringent National Security Act, 15 such cases have been registered in Gorakhpur alone. Today those party leaders who were supporting Yogi ji are contesting elections against him. There are many cases of corruption against the BJP government. The Election Commission urges other parties not to violate the model code of conduct but while filing their respective nomination, huge political banners have been put on display.”
“If the UP Chief Minister thinks that he will become a tall leader by misusing power, the public will decide soon. I hope that my party will receive people’s support and we will defeat the BJP government.”
Q: Will your party play the role of a kingmaker in the formation of government in Uttar Pradesh?
A: “Yes, my party will play a significant role in the formation of government in the state. Only democracy thrives in our country and arrogant as well as dictatorial regimes will not last long here. Congress was in power in the past for a long time, I have seen them being voted out of power.”
“The situation in Gorakhpur is extremely bad and it is such that when I came here, hundreds of people and several top BJP leaders told me that they want an opposition leader to give the BJP a tough political challenge. If someone challenges the BJP to fight them politically, then the ruling BJP uses the Enforcement Directorate and other central investigating agencies as tools to harass their political opponents. I am the only opposition leader who can politically fight the BJP. So the people will vote for my party and help us win the elections.”
“I belong to Uttar Pradesh and the people of Gorakhpur need me. The BJP government did not work despite the people giving it a chance to govern the state for the last five years, therefore now the people want me to contest elections.”
Q: If your party plays a decisive role in forming the government in the state, then with which party will you form an alliance?
A: “I will reiterate again that the BJP government has been given the chance to govern the state for five years. Now the people should give me a chance to become the state Chief Minister. One significant issue is the implementation of a caste census in the state, why is the BJP government staying silent over it? Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Ji had said that his party stands firmly with leaders from the backward community, why is he not uttering a word on the 52 per cent reservation for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). So why is the BJP or the SP not making promises on important issues if they want to form the government in the state.
Q: Will you stake claim for the Chief Minister’s chair as the role of a kingmaker?
A: “Of course my party will, if we get a chance because only then will we able to do something for the people.”
Q: In Uttar Pradesh, you are a youth leader. Do national parties face a threat from your party in future. This is why they do not want you to stitch an alliance with your party in the ongoing state Assembly elections?
A: “I believe in doing hard work, I don’t know how long I will live. The identity of a person is known by his/her work. My father was a teacher and I come from a poor family.
I understand that during the last 70 years, if the poor continue to stay poor, then how have we changed as a country? If the government is giving free ration as the elections are near, then it is the responsibility of the government. The people choose a government so that their problems are addressed.
“People in Uttar Pradesh are still deprived of basic facilities, the condition of roads in Muzaffarnagar is quite bad. People have given every party a chance to be in power in the past, I am young and want to do politics of change.
I don’t want to do politics promoting family rule and corruption. If I am part of any government and injustice is done to any person, then I will not remain silent. My party will stand with the people who are in distress and demand accountability from the government in power which is what all other parties fear.”
Q: BSP supremo Mayawati ji is not seen actively during the ongoing state elections, will the people see you as repacing her as a mass Dalit leader?
A: “The socialist ideology means working with certain principles, I do not work only for the Dalit community. Mayawati ji is much older than me and I respect her. Every party has their own political strategy. As elections are approaching, Akhilesh ji and other party leaders are coming forward to garner people’s votes. Leaders from various parties did not interact with people on the ground for the last five years when the people needed their support the most.
“Behenji (Mayawati) is making necessary efforts, since the past many times people have chosen to distance themselves from her. The people are doing so since they feel that leaders like Mayawati are present among the people only during the election season. People are disappointed with the BJP government and people are supporting my party as we work at the ground level. My party fights against any form of injustice and raises pertinent issues. I am contesting state elections for the first time. I have given tickets to more than 100 people from the backward community despite hailing from poor families.”
Elections in Uttar Pradesh will be held in seven phases and voting will take place on February 10, 14, 20, 23, 27, March 3 and 7. The results will be declared on March 10. The first phase of polling will start from districts of western Uttar Pradesh and gradually end with eastern Uttar Pradesh districts.
As many as 58 Assembly constituencies will go to polls during the first phase and 64 seats in the final and seventh phase.