On Election Trail: BJP Is Headed For A Thumping Majority In UP Polls, Says Union Minister Anurag Thakur
On UP Assembly elections campaign trail, Union minister Anurag Thakur speaks to Swarajya about BJP's chances of winning big, key government schemes, the country's sports infrastructure and more.
Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Singh Thakur, who is also the co-incharge for the elections in Uttar Pradesh, is campaigning in the state ahead of the polling for the sixth phase on 3 March.
As the battle shifts to Purvanchal, Swarajya spoke with Thakur in Gorakhpur Urban, the seat from which Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is contesting his first assembly election, to find out how the fight is shaping up.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. You've been campaigning in different parts of Uttar Pradesh. What is the general trend that you see going around? Is this election a two party fight?
A. It depends how one analyses the ground realities of this election. Look at the background, Congress is one of the oldest political parties in India. BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party] has been in power and Mayawati has been chief minister not once but a number of times. Mulayam Singh ji and Akhilesh ji have been chief ministers for more than a good 10-15 years. Their tenures were riddled with misgovernance.
On the other hand, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) with a strong and decisive leadership of Narendra Modi ji and Yogi Adityanath ji — a clean, effective, and strong leadership is an asset for the party and has delivered on every aspect of governance.
Look at the delivery of Modi ji and Yogi ji in Uttar Pradesh. We have worked above caste, creed, and religion, and worked only for gareeb kalyan (welfare of the poor). Our focus area was to work for the poorest of the poor, for the overall development of the state, and this has all happened only when we started working against gunda raj, mafia raj (goons rule, mafia rule) which had existed in Uttar Pradesh for so many years.
Previous governments of BSP and Samajwadi Party used to shelter them (gundas). They flourished under their patronage. They captured more than 64,000 hectares of land, which has been cleared by Yogi ji's government. Now, BJP is giving land on a leasehold basis to the poorest of the poor and, at the same time, building houses for them. We have already built more than 43 lakh houses, given 1.5 crore electricity connections, 1.86 crore Ujjwala gas cylinders. At the same time, we have provided Ayushman Bharat free medical coverage.
So, all these things are working in favour of Modi ji and Yogi ji and the BJP. This election is primarily about development and decisive leadership which they have given in the state. On the one hand, clean leadership (in BJP's case), on the other hand, corrupt leadership, like BSP and Samajwadi Party.
Q. The BJP has been talking about its welfare delivery, but Akhilesh Yadav has accused you of indulging in "nafrat ki rajneeti". Your comment.
A. Main pehle bhi kehta tha, aaj bhi kehta hoon, Akhilesh ke chaar yaar — aatanki, gunde, mafia, aur brashthachar (I used to say this earlier, I say this even today, the four friends of Akhilesh — terrorists, goons, mafia, and corruption.)
Q. Are you saying Uttar Pradesh will become less safer if the Samajwadi Party forms the government?
A. It happened in the past during their regime, from Muzaffarnagar to Mau riots, you could see the people who were doing all this had some links with the BSP and SP. So the question is do the people want to go back to that era, clearly not.
Let me make it very clear — there is no way that Samajwadi Party or BSP can come back into power. BJP will not only have the majority, but will have the thumping majority in Uttar Pradesh, that is one. Our drive against these gunda, mafia will continue with more thrust post-elections, that is another thing. And the development programme, which started with making international airports, expressways, medical colleges, will further continue.
We have made Uttar Pradesh the number two economy in the country; it will become the number one state in the coming years.
Q. While the BJP has been talking of development, it is believed that caste is a huge deciding factor in Uttar Pradesh elections. There is also talk of a Brahmin-Thakur rift simmering in the state. What do you have to say?
A. I think it is only in the media. Look at the 2014, 2017, and 2019 elections. If it would have been caste, then BJP would not have got 73 seats out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, BJP would not have got 325 seats out of 403 seats in 2017, and similar in 2019. So, people today look at good governance, clean government, and good policies, welfare schemes for the poor, decisive leadership — which is a big issue.
Garib kalyan, garib kalyan, garib kalyan, let me say it time and again, garib kalyan is a huge success which has happened in the last five years.
Q. Talking of caste, the BSP has been largely absent on the ground in this election. The Samajwadi Party has claimed that it is getting the BSP's core vote. What is the BJP's view on this?
A. See, they have been taking votes in the name of Dalit, OBC (Other Backward Classes), or others, whether it is caste, creed, or religion. Our policies are not based on a specific caste or religion. We work with the agenda of sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas, and sabka prayas, and that has been there since 2014. It will continue in the future also.
We are on ground and our delivery is grassroots based, we’re working for the overall development of society and for the welfare of the poorest of the poor. This is why with the Antyodaya-like schemes, from Atal [Bihari Vajpayee] ji's time to Prime Minister Modi's time, it has been a continuous effort and it will continue in the future as well, so garib kalyan will always remain the focus.
Q. As far as sports is concerned, what is the BJP offering the youth of Uttar Pradesh?
A. See, if you look at the central government, it is the Target Olympic Podium Scheme which has helped the elite athletes to train within India and overseas also.
All expenses of boarding, lodging, and training have been borne by the central government. At the same time, they get out-of-pocket allowance to the tune of Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh. They have been assured of a bright future, good training, and all that.
Khelo India schemes have given the athletes various platforms to play either in the Khelo India Youth Games or Khelo India University Games, where talent has been identified and nurtured further. And many of the players who played in the Khelo India Games have played at the Olympics or the Asian Games and represented India.
In this term, we have a clearly laid out plan to strengthen sports infrastructure in the state. We will make sure that every gram panchayat has a stadium and a gym. Apart from this, we will start Major Dhyanchand Sports Infrastructure Mission wherein under this mission we will develop and upgrade sports infrastructure in government schools and colleges.
Not just this, sportsperson training in government academies will get free sports kits apart from the financial assistance that will be provided to them.
Five elements are there — one is the central government, second is the state government, third is the National Sports Federation, fourth is the State Olympic Associations, and the fifth is the corporate. All these five have to come together for the promotion of sports, and I'm grateful that corporates and others have also come on board, and that is why infrastructure at the grassroots level has improved, and this will continue in the future as well.
Q. Would this also include indigenous sports, such as Kambala?
A. There is a window for that also in Khelo India games. Few games are picked and they are promoted and the government of India is keen on developing and promoting indigenous sports. Currently, we have few indigenous games like Gatka, Kalaripayattu, Thang-Ta and Mallakhamb in the present edition of Khelo India Youth Games.
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