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06 January 2012

We will sweep western UP in UP elections: Ajit Singh

Jayant Choudhary

We will sweep western UP in UP elections: Ajit Singh

RLD chief Ajit Singh's induction in the Union Cabinet coincided with the announcement of the schedule for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

He has been forced to juggle his time between the Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan, which houses the civil aviation ministry, and his residence at 12, Tughlaq Road, where he invariably runs into hordes of ticket-seekers. The 73-year-old sixth term Lok Sabha member from Baghpat, who is also an IIT Kharagpur alumnus, took some time out to speak to ET , spelling out his party's strategy for the coming round of electoral battle. Excerpts:

What, according to you, are the main issues in the polls?

The main issue is how to get rid of Mayawati - her corruption, her behaviour, her disconnect from the people, patronisation extended to criminals. All sections of the society are angry with her because of five years of misgovernance and misrule. Till now, there was no alternative available to the people of UP.

The Congress-RLD alliance has given hope to the people. We will sweep the western part of the state. In general, there's a mood swing in our favour across the state.

But aren't people angry with Congress, and the government led by it at the Centre, on the issue of graft. Hasn't Anna Hazare used the issue to whip up popular anger against Congress?

Anna's agitation drew all-round support initially. But because his associates tried to give a political colour to the mass-awakening programme, his campaign gradually lost its sheen and momentum, and lost impact. Also, in Uttar Pradesh, the people's anger is directed at the all-round corruption perpetrated by the Mayawati government in the last five years. There cannot be a more corrupt government in the country.

The past few weeks have seen the return of the usual election-eve spectacle of politicians of all hues, particularly those with criminal background, switching their allegiances. Given this backdrop, how can criminalisation of polity be put to an end?

The answer is self-regulation. There are laws, but little compliance. The Election Commission can still think of amending electoral laws to stop criminalisation. Establishing fast-track courts could be a solution. But it is for parties to take steps to curb the entry of such elements, and discourage defections. If the EC had delayed the elections by a couple of months, the Mayawati government would have collapsed on its own. Mayawati has already sacked 21 ministers. At this rate, all her ministers would have had to be sacrificed (laughs).

But hasn't your party embraced criminals such as Haji Yaqub Qureshi and Shahnawaz Rana?

There is not a single corruption or criminal case against Haji Yaqub Qureshi. The FIR in the kidnapping case registered by the Muzaffarnagar police has Shahnawaz Rana's nephew's name, and not his. Check out Samajwadi list from Bulandshahr. And BJP? What did it do? It embraced Babu Singh Kushwaha.

You have been accused of displaying political opportunism. You have in the past forged alliances with almost all political parties, including BJP and Congress, and have been a member of all the governments at the Centre.

For regional players such as us, what choice do we have? And which political party in Uttar Pradesh has not exhibited opportunism? Mayawati has, in the past, joined hands with BJP, Congress and even SP. The Mulayam Singh government came to power in the state in 2003 with the help of BJP. Speaker Kesarinath Tripathi, who was from BJP stable, helped him by upholding the defection of BSP MLAs.

It is said that alliances have always helped your party, RLD, but not the partner, in elections. RLD won five Lok Sabha seats from western UP in 2009, but BJP was disappointed.

If that had been the case, how could Rajnath Singh win from Ghaziabad? And how did BJP wrest Meerut and Agra?

How many seats is RLD contesting in alliance with Congress?

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