It is 9.30 in the morning and its raining heavily. The chief minister’s bungalow in Lucknow’s Kalidas Marg is relatively quiet. After his early morning prayers, the first mahant chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, is ready for a long day ahead as he has to present his government’s first budget on July 11.
As for the day’s agenda, he is eagerly looking forward to his video conferencing with senior district officials on the speedy disposal of public complaints.
In his first interview to a newspaper on completion of 100 days in office, Adityanath talks candidly on various issues, including the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, expansion of Hindu Yuva Vahini, triple talaq and the challenges ahead as he says ‘sanyas’ is not an escape route but a path for service to humankind.
Here are the excerpts:
Q. You recently expressed the desire to return to your mutt in Gorakhpur? Are you planning an early retirement from politics?
I am not a full-time politician but a ‘sanyasi’ who took the path of politics to serve the masses. But I am not an escapist either. I will continue in politics till I have completed my challenging responsibilities. I will fulfil whatever responsibilities have been given to me and will quit only after I have delivered them successfully. Having said so, devoting my entire life to politics will not be acceptable to me.
Q: But people are talking about greater responsibilities for you at the Centre?
The central leadership has given me this responsibility (of the state) and my priority is to deliver.
Q. The Prime Minister’s office has mediated in resolving Ram Mandir/Babri Mosque dispute in the past. Will you or your office intervene to find an amicable solution to the century-old dispute?
The matter is sub judice as the case is in the Supreme Court.The state government is not a party to the dispute. I had gone to Ayodhya on May 31. Both the parties had met me. I had appealed them to find an amicable solution through discussion.
Q. Will you intervene as you have been committed to the construction of the temple?
Let them hold talks first and come out with a solution. The state government is not a party and cannot initiate direct action. But if during talks, the two parties hit a roadblock, then the government can facilitate. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court had given some valuable suggestions and I am also of the view that the matter should be amicably resolved. Let a new era of communal harmony start in the country.
Q. Muslims in the state are feeling insecure. Why?
There is no fear in any community. The state government is committed to the welfare of the 22 crore people of the state. The government does not discriminate in the implementation of policies or schemes. I am committed to the safety and development of every community and region in the state. But at the same time, I would like to make it clear that there will be no appeasement of any community or section of the society.
Q. Your comment on the Taj Mahal created a controversy.
The Taj Mahal can be a tourist attraction, an architectural marvel but it can never be treated as a monument of faith. After all, there is a difference between tourism and faith.
Q. Muslim women have been meeting you and your government has promised them relief from triple talaq? When will this happen?
The matter is in the Supreme Court and the state government will follow its directives. Many Muslim women have met me and I have urged the women welfare minister to take their opinion and submit it to the court at the earliest. I have also asked the minister to prepare a welfare plan for the victims of triple talaq as 50% of our state’s population should not be deprived of justice.
Q. Why is the government delaying the reopening of slaughterhouses?
A. The government had closed down illegal slaughterhouses, which did not adhere to the norms laid down by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Supreme Court. We have asked the owners of slaughterhouses to abide by the norms after which they will be regularised. But they have not submitted their applications to the respective authorities for action. The state government will adhere to SC and NGT norms.
Q. What are your plans for the expansion of the Hindu Yuva Vahini? Will it merge with the RSS?
The Hindu Yuva Vahini is working in the social and cultural sphere and it will continue to do so. There are no plans for its expansion or merger with the RSS. Its volunteers will be deployed in programmes related to sanitation, literacy and public welfare. It is not working in the political area.
Q. You have to become a member of either house of the state legislature within six months. Three months have already passed. What are your plans?
I will contest election from wherever my party decides.
Q. There are five ministers who have to seek membership of either of the two houses.
The party will take a decision on them too. Let the time come.
Q. You will be facing your budget session amidst financial constraints due to the state’s commitment to loan waiver and seventh pay commission?
We will mobilise funds through savings and check on wasteful expenditure. We will fulfil our commitment without imposing any new tax. We have to check migration and create jobs. This is possible only through a comprehensive development of the state – both rural and urban areas. We want to introduce technology in the farming sector to attain enhanced productivity. We are setting up new agriculture science centres in rural areas. The new industrial policy will create an atmosphere for investments in the state.
Q. Do you think industrialists will come to UP?
A lot of industrialists have shown interest in making investments in UP as the climate is more conducive today.
Q. Are you expecting a windfall from mining tenders?
We are getting more revenue from mining after the introduction of e-tendering and check on corruption by initiating stern action against people involved in illegal mining. We are expecting huge revenue from mining in the next financial year.
Q. The opposition is dubbing multiple investigations ordered by your government in the execution of projects by the previous Akhilesh Yadav government as a political vendetta. Your comments.
There is no political vendetta behind investigations. There have been financial irregularities. Let me give you the example of one project – the initial budget of Rs 160 crore was increased to Rs 660 crore and then again to Rs 1,600 crore. How can we turn a blind eye to such discrepancies? It is betrayal with the people of the state.
Q. Gorakhpur has been a neglected region. Do you have any special plan for its development?
I have to work for the development of the entire state, including Gorakhpur. The development schemes are being framed for the entire state. Poorvanchal and Bundelkhand are backward regions. We have offered special concessions to the entrepreneurs in the new industrial policy to attract investment in these regions.
Q. Do you think that you lack administrative experience or your spiritual powers as a mahant help in the administration of the state?
I have been a member of Parliament for 18 years since 1998 but never held any position of responsibility. I am fortunate that the Prime Minister and the party’s president has given this responsibility. Yes, we have yogic will power and my spiritual knowledge guides me in my administrative work too.
Q. What are the challenges ahead? Is law and order an issue?
UP’s work culture has gone for a toss in the last one decade. Criminals were getting shelter, FIRs were not being lodged and heinous crimes were being swept under the carpet. We have ensured 100 per cent registration of cases, the quick framing of charges and timely prosecution without favouring anyone. I have also requested the media to report facts. The crime graph is bound to go down because of the actions taken by my government. It is my commitment to the people of the state too. I will ensure that no criminal will ever get any political protection in my government. If anyone takes law in his hands, he would not be spared.
Q. What about the spurt in cases of upper caste and Dalit clashes?
Only one case of caste clash was reported from Saharanpur. It flared up after the visit of former chief minister Mayawati. It was a case of administrative failure and was contained efficiently. But you must note that there has been no communal riot in 100 days.
Q. While you have been asking officials to perform their duty fearlessly, some police officers were humiliated and given marching orders, particularly two women police officers in Gorakhpur and Bulandshahr?
The transfers were done according to the transfer policy and not due to any political pressure. In Gorakhpur, the local MLA and the woman IPS officer had an argument over lathi charge on agitating women demanding the removal of liquor shops. Who would want a liquor shop in their residential area? The previous government had shifted liquor outlets in residential blocks and women were protesting against it. A public representative will raise such issues. So far as the Bulandshahr case is concerned, it was a routine transfer.
Q. Your 100-day achievement?
Development and good governance.
Q. What about 2019 general elections? You are also in demand in other states.
We will deliver 100% result in UP and I would campaign wherever I will be asked to do so.