Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has called the election in India's most populous state an "80% versus 20% battle", a highly controversial comment seen to imply a religious divide. The numbers citied by Yogi Adityanath roughly correspond to the ratio of Hindus to Muslims in UP, where Assembly elections will be held next month.
His comments have evoked strong reactions from opposition leaders who alleged that it was an attempt to polarize the elections. Later his party colleagues tried to playdown the issue but some analysts who have been closely watching BJP affairs conceded that Adityanath’s remarks have courted controversy unnecessarily.
In the midst of all these, several party leaders including three Cabinet Ministers have quit the BJP, causing a huge embarrassment for the Chief Minister and his party ahead of the polls. The series of resignations have raised serious questions about the CM’s style of functioning.
Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to Samajwadi Party spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari to know his party’s views on Adityanath’s controversial remarks and the reason behind mass exodus from the BJP. The Samajwadi Party is elated by the development but the party is treading cautiously.
Q: Your views on Adityanath’s remarks ‘80 versus 20’ battle?
A: Adityanath’s ‘80 per cent vs 20 percent’ comment is nothing but an example of hate speech. He has a track record of giving hate speeches. He has done it in the past. BJP spokespersons and a section of media (read pro-Modi) have rationalized the remarks. It is for the Election Commission to take note of it. His remarks have already triggered hate speeches on social media platforms.
Q: Your party and other parties have played the politics of minority appeasement. BJP says if it is trying to consolidate Hindu voters, opposition should not have any objection.
A: If an elected Chief Minister starts speaking in the language of 80 vs 20, it triggers a dangerous trend towards diminishing the democracy and promoting violent ways to fulfil the agenda. It is a direct message for vigilante groups to go and fight the 20 per cent. As far as the charge of minority appeasement is concerned, the party has responded to it at an appropriate platform.
The BJP is currently fighting elections in UP on Modi and not Yogi Adityanath. Home Minister Amit Shah had made it amply clear when he visited UP towards end of 2021. Since then, chances of return of Yogi as CM have become slim. After that, Prime Minister Modi visited UP and spent a lot of time in inaugurating new projects, launching new schemes or relaunching old schemes. The message was loud and clear. That’s because the party realized that going ahead with Yogi will be a flop. The BJP has failed to polarize the elections despite best of its efforts so far. The Election Commission should take cognizance of Adityanath’s 80 vs 20 remarks and take appropriate action. Or else people will question the ability of the Commission in the democratic system.
Q: Available reports suggest that the Chief Minister might contest from Ayodhya. The proposed move could spread the Hindutva message and galvanise the party. Your views.
A: It would be an act of desperation. What difference does it make if Adityanath contests from Gorakhpur or Ayodhya? His own party is not sure of getting benefits from the work done by his government in the last four-and-a-half years. That’s because nothing was done on ground.
The election is being fought on parallel issues. While SP is fighting on buniyaadi issues like jobs, price rise, farmers’ problems, education, etc., the BJP is fighting elections on bey buniyaadi (baseless) issues. Top bosses in the BJP have been trying to polarize the elections but will people (especially those whose families have gone through hell in all these months) allow elections to be contested on hateful emotions? It is amply clear that people are not too keen to get influenced by the BJP.
Q: Many leaders from the BJP are joining the SP. How will SP maintain a balance between new and old leaders?
A: Leaders are leaving BJP because of the dictatorial style of Yogi Adityanath and Modiji. The party has no regard for social justice movement. SP leader Akhilesh Yadav would use his acumen to maintain a balance between old and new. The party, which has only 47 members in the 403-member Assembly, has scope to accommodate these leaders without much problem.
Q: Will your party give tickets to women candidates this time around?
A: SP Chief Akhilesh Yadav has already stated that women and youth will be given due representation when his party forms a government. There is a good competition among the political parties to give representation to women candidates. SP wants to be part of the competition. In terms of percentage, we have not prepared any formula for it. But the message is clear that wherever possible women candidates will be given tickets.
Q: In the current scenario, do you think there is enough space for real issues in UP polls?
A: Yes, there is a lot of space for real issues in UP polls. For example, only seven to eight percent of candidates fielded by political parties across the spectrum were women in the 2007, 2012 and 2017 elections. This number is far less than candidates with criminal background who contested in these three elections. This is one real issue. Poverty in rural and urban areas is another real issue. Schools are shut and hospitals are in pitiable conditions. There are no jobs. Corruption at the local body level is rising. These are real issues of people which the BJP fails to understand because it is blinded by its arrogance. The UP polls will be another case of ‘India Shining for the BJP’.