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The elections to Uttar Pradesh are a crucial precursor to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. All parties in the fray have begun campaigns and among them is the Aam Aadmi Party, whose MP and state in-charge Sanjay Singh is sweating it out to secure a footing for AAP.
Where is the party headed? What does it hope for? Singh speaks to The Wire.
Excerpts from the chat are below.
How is AAP preparing for the Uttar Pradesh polls?
Our membership drive is running consistently in all 403 seats. Aam Aadmi Party is raising the issues of the state very prominently – be it unemployment, agrarian distress, women’s safety or law and order.
We are fighting on the road, as well as expanding our organisation. While the selection of candidates will take some time, when it comes to strengthening our ranks and establishing a grassroots connect, we are moving ahead rapidly.
You must have seen the huge crowd at our Tiranga Yatra.
सिंहासन ख़ाली करो की जनता आती है…
— Adil Ahmad Khan (@AdilKhanAAP) August 14, 2021
There are several talking points on Uttar Pradesh ahead of the polls. What are your views on the condition of education, law and order and healthcare in the state?
The education system in the state is so deplorable that children in primary schools are getting salt-roti to eat.
Today, buffaloes and pigs are being kept in the government schools of the state. The infrastructure of primary schools is dilapidated. Students are being made to sit on sackcloth. Even the minimum facilities required in a school are not available to kids in Uttar Pradesh government schools. The honourable minister is doing nothing.
I have evidence of his corruption. Uttar Pradesh is constantly lagging in terms of education and the government is not at all concerned. Our government in Delhi gave education utmost priority. We have provided air conditioned classes to students. We have built a world class education model in Delhi but in Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath ji hasn’t done anything in the past four and half years.
That’s why Delhi’s education minister was stopped from visiting government schools in Uttar Pradesh. How can you stop anyone from seeing a school run on the taxpayer’s money? This clearly proves that there is definitely something wrong in the entire system.
What about law and order and healthcare?
Coming to the issue of law and order, so far you might have heard stories of thieves and other criminals absconding but in Uttar Pradesh we have a case of an SP absconding. Patidar (the SP) had threatened to kill a businessman if he did not pay a bribe. He then indeed got him killed. He has not been arrested yet.
Minors aged 8, 10 and 12 years are being raped in the state and a three-term former legislator Nirvendra Kumar Mishra was murdered and the Bikru case happened.
It is thanks to the dictatorship of Yogi Adityanath that Khushi Dubey along with three women and a minor are languishing in jail. There is no one to listen to them or give them justice. These things clearly show that the law and order has completely failed in the state and our chief minister has become the ‘muqadma mantri’ (litigation minister).
Coming to healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example. An oxymetre of Rs 800 had to be purchased for Rs 5,000, a thermometer of Rs 1,600 was purchased for Rs 13,000, and a ventilator worth Rs 8,00,000 was purchased for Rs 22,00,000. We have provided all the evidence and documents to expose these things.
We have lodged an official complaint with Lokayukta in this regard too. But no action has been taken yet. The state’s healthcare has succumbed to corruption. You must have seen the visuals of Hardoi where a dog was sitting in the OPD where a doctor should be sitting. [Editor’s note: A report of the incident shows that dogs were sitting on the floor of a hospital room.]
During the pandemic, people died in the absence of proper testing and treatment, unavailability of medicines, bed, oxygen, etc.
Will AAP contest elections in Uttar Pradesh with its full potential or will it just attempt to find electoral ground this time?
We will fight with our full potential.
How many seats will the party contest?
This has not been decided yet. As I told you, preparations are going on all the seats.
AAP came up with some lucrative schemes in Delhi. What is the party offering to the people of Uttar Pradesh?
We will offer free electricity, free water and free education. We will provide 300 units of electricity for free.
After Rita Bahuguna Joshi’s exit from Congress, Lucknow witnessed an almost dead contest in the 2019 general elections. Are you planning on contesting from Lucknow?
It will be decided by the top leadership.
How do you regard the actions taken against Azam Khan? Was it right for Samajwadi Party to distance itself from Khan?
Akhilesh Yadav participated in the movement in Azam Khan’s constituency. Akhilesh Yadav was active when Azam Khan’s health deteriorated recently. So, I believe it would be unfair to say that Samajwadi party distanced itself from Azam Khan.
As far as the actions are concerned, they are politically motivated. Frequent litigations and putting his wife and son in jail, I believe, is not right.
How do you rate Adityanath’s four-and-half-years in office?
The state has been ruined. He has worked to spread casteism and hatred in the state. He has taken the state 20 years back. Corruption has become rampant in his regime.
Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu is also keen to establish a grassroots connect, something unusual for the state lately. How do you see his work?
Everyone should fight against power when there is something wrong.
Has Samajwadi Party, as an opposition, played a good role?
Everyone has played a role in their own way, so has Samajwadi Party.
BSP hasn’t spoken out much against BJP in the past four-and-half years, what do you think about it?
The elephant’s trunk has in it the lotus flower.
You met Akhilesh Yadav recently, were there any discussions on the 2022 state polls?
I have said it many times that my meeting with Akhilesh Yadav was to wish him on his birthday and to discuss the violence during the panchayat polls in the state.
Are there any talks of an alliance with any party?
When something happens, it will be announced.
What do you feel about the way the Delhi government of your party treated the Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi during the first wave of COVID-19 last year, particularly when it came to announcing the data from the Markaz separately?
Our government believes in social harmony, unity and brotherhood. We don’t do any such things.
Do you think that stretching the issue of the Ram Mandir scam – when you have issues of skyrocketing fuel prices and COVID-19 mismanagement – might give advantage to BJP?
You are the first person to have said this. If BJP is stealing in the name of Bhagwan Shri Ram, then should we not expose them? BJP leaders stole from the donation in the name of Prabhu Shri Ram and actions must be taken against them. I have filed complaint and if no action is taken, I will go to the court.
A Muslim man was beaten in Kanpur, what do you think of the incident?
I strongly condemn the incident. No one should be forced to say anything. Whoever attempts to do so must be dealt with legally.
Why did Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal remain silent on anti-Muslim slogans chanted at a protest in Jantar Mantar on August 8?
It is not right to look at everything with suspicion. The Delhi CM is working towards the betterment of the healthcare, education, providing free electricity, getting CCTVs installed for women safety. Everyone is benefitted by these things.
Who spoke against those slogans raised at Jantar Mantar? Aam Aadmi Party.
The party is speaking against it from parliament to almost everywhere. We have criticised the issue. We have demanded actions against them. We have questioned the [Union] home minister.
You didn’t attend Rahul Gandhi’s breakfast meet for the opposition leaders even though you attended Kapil Sibal’s dinner. Why?
Whenever there is a need to come together on any Bill on the floor of the house, we have been there. As far as Kapil Sibal’s dinner is concerned, it was a party for his birthday.
Kapil Sibal, in an interview, said that it was not a birthday party and that the 2024 elections were discussed.
Yes, once there, we discussed politics too.