Barely a week after the BJP placated its ally, Om Prakash Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, political circles are abuzz about Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal (S) meeting Congress’ Priyanka Gandhi. But Keshav Prasad Maurya, deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, told ET in New Delhi that the BJP will soon sort out differences with its partners. Edited excerpts:
Now that Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have come together, how big is the challenge for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh?
The lotus will bloom in all the places where the SP or the BSP will field candidates. We will win more than 73 seats in UP.
But the BJP does not seem to be able to take along smaller allies. Om Prakash Rajbhar relinquished one of his ministries citing displeasure with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
We are confident that all our allies who were with us in 2014 will stay with us in 2019 and 2022 (assembly polls). There may be some differences with allies but they will be heard and the differences will be sorted out soon.
But Anupriya Patel is said to be in talks with Priyanka Gandhi.
Those who were with us will remain with us. As a politician, any leader can meet anyone else. Even if there are differences — be it on the number of seats or anything else — they can be sorted out. I’m confident Apna Dal and other allies will stay with us.
Now that Priyanka Gandhi has come in as general secretary, there are talks that the Congress may eat into the BJP’s core votes.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Priyanka campaigned in more than 40 constituencies (out of 80 in UP). But the Congress was restricted to two pocket boroughs where the SP didn’t field candidates. The BJP’s wave is still there because of the popularity of Modiji.
But what about anti-incumbency against sitting BJP MLAs & MPs?
These Lok Sabha elections are not about making someone an MP but about making Modiji the prime minister.
2014 Lok Sabha elections and the 2017 assembly polls were fought keeping Other Backward Classes in the front. But OBCs now feel they have been let down.
Our PM himself comes from an OBC community. He hasn’t taken a holiday, has worked 18 hours, has celebrated Holi-Diwali with the armed forces. No other party has such a leader. Baki parties ke paas dulhe hai, baraati nahi hai (Other parties only have bridegrooms, no followers). OBCs are determined to make Modiji the PM again.
Centre’s 10% reservation for the poor in general category seems to have angered the backward classes. What steps has the government taken for them?
OBCs have found place in most posts in organisations and ministries. Apart from this, giving constitutional status to the OBC Commission is not a small move by Modiji. The demand was there since Independence but the BJP took the step. How large the OBC population is needs to be ascertained. To get the right figure, a decision was taken for a caste-based census and the next census will have the actual figures. Reservation for the economically poor in the general category is a good step. As far as OBCs are concerned, based on the figures we get from the next census, necessary steps will be taken for their uplift.
What about the allegations that Thakurs are getting most of the plum posts in UP?
Yogiji is our chief minister and a sanyasi as well. A sanyasi has no caste. The Opposition has no issue. They rake up this issue for political gains but they will not be successful.
What about law & order in the state?
There has been a remarkable improvement in law & order. Bringing down crime rate is one thing and bringing in a feeling of security among common people is another.
But even police officers do not seem safe after an inspector was killed while controlling protests against cow slaughter in Bulandshahr.
It is sad that a cow was slaughtered and it is equally sad that a policeman was killed while trying to control the mob. For bringing back rule of law, we have come to power. Good governance is another name for the BJP. Having said that, if there is any discrepancy or wrongdoing, we will take action as and when required.
Talking about the UP economy, despite the much-publicised investor summit, the conversion rate into actual investment remains low.
It’s not like that. After the last investor summit, we have got actual investments to the tune of Rs 1 lakh crore. Based on those MoUs, all investors are in touch with the government. The process takes time. We have rolled out a red carpet for the industry. An enabling environment has been created for willing investors.
What steps is the state taking for families of jawans killed in the Pulwama terrorist attack?
Twelve jawans who lost their lives in Pulwama were from UP. The government, the party and the society are all standing together with their families. We have announced compensation of Rs 25 lakh and a government job for the kin of each martyr.
Politics in UP invariably revolves around caste. How does the BJP plan to maintain the right balance between caste and vikas (development)?
Either during Vidhan Sabha elections or gram sabha polls, there is no denying the fact that caste is the main factor. But gradually, especially after Gujarat saw development under Narendra Modi, the trend has changed. Polls are being fought based on development. People assess parties on the basis of their capability to bring development and security. Other parties have a history of corruption and have come together to join this contest to stop Modi from returning to power.