'Focus on welfare and development'
|Interview with Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
"IT is as though the national media have suddenly discovered me in a matter of a month and a half. But I have been here all the while, at least for over a decade, working among the people, strengthening my party, its organisation and its connect with the people." This was how Akhilesh Yadav, arguably the biggest star of the January-February Assembly elections in five States, responded to the attention he received, especially during the last phase of the campaign in Uttar Pradesh. With the declaration of the results on March 6 and his elevation to the post of Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the media attention on the 38-year-old Samajwadi Party (S.P.) leader has only grown. Frontline met Akhilesh Yadav for an interview a day before he was sworn in Chief Minister. He talked about issues relating to governance and his priorities and plans. Excerpts:
The people of Uttar Pradesh have given the S.P. a clear majority just as they did in the case of the BSP in 2007. This mandate is accompanied by great expectations too. Many leaders in power, including former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Chief Minister Mayawati, have found it difficult to live up to these expectations. What lessons have you learnt from these experiences and how do you propose to live up to the expectations of the people?
It is always a daunting task to live up to the expectations of the people. But we should also note that while many politicians have failed to live up to the expectations of the people, there are many who have successfully lived up to them. If one looks at our own history, one can see very many leaders who have done their bit carefully, repeatedly earning the people's confidence. You can see these experiences in the history of many States of the country. If one were to analyse these experiences collectively, one can see that there are several common traits in these achievements. These include a clear vision for the development of the State and for the welfare of its people, a practical programme built on a clear understanding of one's strengths and limitations, and a dedicated ministerial and administrative team to take this forward. I would strive to emulate this with the positive vote our party has won.
We have already highlighted our vision for the State through our manifesto. Our manifesto has addressed the issues and problems of the youth, farmers, workers and women. We have also addressed broad infrastructure issues. Our focus will be on improving infrastructural facilities, including water, power, and transport. Services such as health and education will also find enhanced attention. Apart from all this, minority issues that have been highlighted through the recommendations of the Rajinder Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Misra Commission at the State level will be taken up. Those sections of society that have been ignored during the BSP regime are looking at us with great hope, and we need to concretise our governance programme to fulfil their hopes and aspirations.
There is a stream of opinion that the S.P. manifesto is essentially populist and does not have a constructive development agenda.
This is a fallacy that is being spread by sections of the media and some vested political interests. A section of the media has projected that the government will require Rs.77,000 crore to fulfil our manifesto promises. I do not know from where these calculations have come up. The fact of the matter is that we can fulfil our promises through careful generation of resources, proper budgeting, curtailing of frivolous expenditure, and a firm check on corruption. There are revenue losses and these will also be dealt with. As for the populism vs constructive development debate, I am of the view that one cannot ignore welfare measures for the people merely by branding them populist or be completely carried away by welfare measures at the cost of concrete development that would be beneficial for the State in the long run. The S.P. government's effort would be to strike a balance between these two streams.
You referred to the resources factor. Many observers and even economic experts are of the view that some of your promises, such as loan waiver for farmers and unemployment doles, would impose a great burden on the exchequer and that there would not be much money left for real development work.
This is where I would like to emphasise the balance between welfare-oriented programmes and constructive work. See, Uttar Pradesh is entering a phase of real purposive governance after a period of wanton, wasteful expenditure on huge concrete structures, statue-filled parks and white elephants. I propose to reverse this trend of wasteful expenditure and use the resources for people's welfare and the development of the State. Put in other words, if we can control corruption in a handful of areas, we can generate enough resources for a couple of programmes.
If you are asked to name the single most important priority of the government, what will it be?
I would not like to speak in terms of a single priority. I would like to state broadly that the areas of priority would be public health, employment, education, infrastructure development and, of course, law and order.
On law and order, the track record of the earlier S.P. government has not been too good. In fact, your last government was defeated on this count in 2007.
We are certainly aware of that. And it is our solemn commitment to do a better job on this front than ever. You will see soon that we mean business.
Even before the State got its new Chief Minister, there was a mad rush at the employment exchanges for registration, resulting in police lathi charge and injuries to several job-seekers. At one level, it reflects a specific kind of law and order problem and, at another, the high level of expectations.
It reflects the people's belief that the S.P. will fulfil its promise. That is why there was a rush at the employment exchanges. Other issues relating to this will be addressed as we go along. But failing to see the positive dimension is not good.
There have been a number of developments at the Centre after the U.P. verdict. Will the S.P. once again come to the rescue of the beleaguered UPA, by making up with the Congress leadership and joining the Central government?
As of now, we have no plans on this front. In any case, the decision in this regard will be taken by Mulayam Singh Yadav, the party president.