Rajat Sharma

Emotional Yogi: Confident of Victory

akb fullI was in Gorakhpur on Tuesday morning, where Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath replied to my questions during an hour long India TV special show on the assembly elections. The hall was packed with spectators, who were waiting eagerly for Yogi to answer to several of my probing questions. Yogi did not evade a single question. He calmly replied to all the questions, most of which were centered on elections, but there were also ticklish topics like ‘hijab’, Lakhimpur Kheri and Hathras incidents.

Never did I see Yogi in such a calm and confident mood. Towards the end of the show, he predicted a landslide win on 80 per cent seats, which, in numbers, comes to more than 320 in a House of 403. He predicted the “end of Samajwadi Party”, and made a comparison with Lankini, the female monster who protected Ravana’s golden city of Lanka. Yogi said, when Lankini watched Hanuman taking a huge shape in front of her, she knew the game was up, and Lanka was lost.

Yogi went a bit further. He claimed, he had reports that “some opposition leaders have booked tickets for foreign visits, some to England and Australia, while some small-timers may try to flee to Nepal after March 10 (counting day) when the results will be out. “I have asked our police to do joint patrolling with Nepal police to prevent them from crossing the border”, he said.

In his typical manner, Yogi lashed out at dynastic politics, and berated Akhilesh Yadav, his main rival in the current elections. Yogi said, “this is a family, where a son shoves his father (Mulayam Singh Yadav), and the nephew throws out his uncle. All the family members are united so long as they get part of the loot”. Harsh words from a chief minister.

Yogi predicted that all those ministers who resigned from BJP before the elections and crossed over to the opposition camp, are bound to lose and forfeit their deposits. He also predicted that as in 2017 and 2019, all the “small-timer pehelwans (wrestlers)” who have joined hands with SP for the “maha gathbandhan” (grand alliance) are going to wrestle among themselves after the results are out on March 10.

There was one moment during the show, when I posed a personal question to Yogi. I asked, if Rahul Gandhi can ask his sister Priyanka to help in the elections, why can’t you help your sister who walks several kilometers daily to her tea and snacks shop (in Uttarakhand)? Why can’t you help your own family?

Yogi paused for a few moments, and then, in an emotional voice replied: “I am a Yogi. I have taken the oath of ‘rashtradharma’(service to the nation). I have not taken oath for my family. A yogi always works for ‘lok kalyan’ (welfare of the people). The people of UP are my family.”

During the show, Yogi spoke on one of the hot topics during this election – farmers guarding their fields at night from stray cattle. He promised to do more to ensure that there are fewer stray cattle, and all of them would be accommodated in cow shelters. “When we came to power, we vowed, we will not allow a single cow to be slaughtered. This is our Sankalp (promise)”, he said.

On terrorism, Yogi alleged that it was the SP government which refused to prosecute people charged for serial blasts, and withdrew all cases. On his remark that bulldozers will be out again after March 10, Yogi said, “we are making the best use of bulldozers. Companies manufacturing bulldozers should be grateful to our government. We will not allow criminals and mafia leaders to go scot free.”

On the issue of unemployment, Yogi said, “we tried to bring transparency in appointments to government jobs during the first three years. The later two years were taken up by Covid management. Only recently, we conducted a comprehensive eligibility test for recruitment to non-gazetted posts, in which 25 lakhs candidates took part. The results will be out soon. We have more government jobs during our tenure, compared to the cumulative number of jobs given during SP and BSP rule.”

On Akhilesh Yadav promising free electricity, Yogi said, “During their regime, UP was known for darkness after dusk. Today we provide round-the-clock electricity to all districts. When they failed to generate electricity, how can they promise free power?” The chief minister claimed that during the previous regime, most of the free rations for poor people used to be siphoned away by those close to the ruling party. “Soon after we came to power, we conducted survey and seized several lakh fake ration cards. We introduced PoS system, due to which poor people are getting free rations twice a month. Theft of free rations has now stopped”, he said.

On the two incidents that took place in Lakhimpur Kheri and Hathras, Yogi Adityanath’s reply was to the point. He said, “Both incidents were indeed unfortunate, but our government took timely steps. In the Hathras case, the CBI is carrying out its probe, which, according to my knowledge, has not gone a step beyond what our police had investigated. I am waiting for the truth that will emerge to establish that it could be part of a conspiracy to defame our government. In the Lakhimpur Kheri case, the SIT is doing its investigation under the supervision of Supreme Court. There was an effort to foment riots, but our government brought the situation under control.”

On the ‘hijab’ controversy in the schools and colleges of Karnataka, Yogi said, “Personally I have no objection to anybody wearing any dress, either at home or in public places, but our system runs in accordance with the Constitution. Some people cannot impose their choices on the nation. Today it is a school, tomorrow they may demand that they be allowed to do this in (security) force. We cannot allow indiscipline.”

During the show, Yogi spoke in detail about how he brought the Japanese Encephalitis under control in eastern UP, and how he personally took charge during the Covid pandemic’s second wave that swept the country in April and May last year. “I personally went to several districts to check the ground situation. In Mathura, a lady was surprised when she saw me standing in front of her home. She told me, you are the chief minister. You should take care of yourself first, because you are running the state. ..Today I can say, we have sufficient quantity of oxygen in each district.”

I visited Gorakhpur after a long gap of several years. More than five years ago, it was a dusty district headquarter, with potholed roads and lack of proper infrastructure like hospitals, medical colleges, and roads. Today, Gorakhpur boasts of several state-of-the-art hospitals, expressways, wide roads and other amenities.

The work done by Yogi’s government during the last five years is there for all to see. Most of the people I met in Gorakhpur on Monday told me how the present government has brought changes in their day-to-day life. I did not find a single person in the auditorium who spoke a word against Yogi, who is contesting from Gorakhpur. The jury is still out on which party will sweep the UP elections on March 10. Let us wait and see.

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