Yogi Adityanath built himself the image of a firebrand Hindutva leader long before he became the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. In this interview, conducted in Hindi, Mr. Adityanath talks about how ‘development for all’ is a corollary of his religious inspiration, and the many controversies of his tenure.
The police respond with force if criminals attack them or innocent people, but no encounter in Uttar Pradesh on his watch was staged, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said.
“The police open fire where they are fired at.…It is the rule of law,” he said
Around 80 people have been killed in police encounters since he took over two years ago on March 19.
The Chief Minister said he considered all people equal and his vision for governance was inspired by his faith. He reiterated the point when asked if he was trying to effect an image makeover — from being an exclusive Hindu leader to a champion of development. “A Hindu is interested in the welfare of all, not merely humans, but all living beings,” he said.
Excerpts from the intervew:
You have completed two years as Chief Minister. What is your scorecard?
The last two years have seen transformation and the well-being of the people of U.P. In the previous 15-20 years, U.P. became associated with certain traits that ruined the reputation of the State. We have changed that bad reputation. The State has made great strides in development and governance, in gaining trust and honour, in the last two years. We have been able to do this thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modiji’s guidance and the hard work of our officials.
You say you are for ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. In your earlier campaigns, your image was of a Hindu leader. As Chief Minister, are you the leader of only Hindus or the leader of all people?
I am a Hindu, and I have pride in that. A Hindu is interested in the welfare of all, not merely humans but all living beings. Sarve bhavantu sukhina, sarve santu niramaya. Sanatan Hindu dharma has given this message to the world. The well-being of everyone… that is Hindu philosophy. Everyone must follow this philosophy. As Chief Minister, I am happy that every class, caste, religion and citizen is benefiting from our programmes. We have implemented ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ with full commitment in U.P.
What is your biggest achievement?
U.P.’s law and order has become a model for the country. This used to be a State where every second day you had a riot, the mafia raj was widespread, gangs were being sheltered by the administration. We have been successful in changing that perception. Because of that change in perception, besides implementing Modiji’s flagship schemes in various sectors, U.P. is doing much more. The U.P. Investors Summit was a great success. We hosted the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, and the Kumbh in Prayagraj for 25 crore people. It was the most successful ever, and with a message of cleanliness and security.
So, are you transforming yourself from a Hindu hriday samrat (emperor of Hindu hearts) to a vikas purush (man of development)?
Listen, this is no transformation. The real Hindu vision is that nobody will be discriminated against or favoured. Everyone is equal. Development is for all. We are implementing that vision in U.P. We are today the first in the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. We are number one in the Swachh Bharat Mission, in tourism. India is the best destination for FDI, and U.P. is the best in India. Our procurement policy is farmer friendly. We ensure that the minimum support price is given to farmers, and the money reaches their bank accounts in 48 hours. No middlemen. We have added more land to the irrigation network in the last two years than in the 20 years prior to that.
So, the biggest change is in law and order. There has been a dramatic rise in the number of encounters by the police ever since you became Chief Minister. About 80 people have been killed by the police. Is this the only way to enforce law and order?
See, not a single one of the encounters was fake. If the criminal opens fire, the police will not keep their hands tied. Earlier, the police used to run and criminals used to chase them. Because criminals were being shielded by the administration, the Bahujan Samaj Party’s or the Samajwadi Party’s. Today, that is not the case. Today, there is the rule of law in U.P. Those who break the law will be confronted by the law. If someone fires at the police, or at innocent people, it is only natural they will be responded to in a language that they understand, by the police. Our officers have been killed, injured badly in the process, but the security of 23 crore people is my responsibility. It is also my responsibility to provide security to all those who visit U.P.
How are you so sure that no encounter was fake?
The Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commission have laid down norms to be followed, and those have been adhered to in each case.
But the application of law appears selective in U.P. For instance, in the use of the National Security Act (NSA). The police charged Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad under the NSA, but did not use it in Bulandshahr (when a Hindutva mob protesting against suspected cow slaughter killed a police officer).
No, that is not the case, we have applied the NSA in many cases. In Saharanpur, whether it was Chandrashekhar or the other side. Three from one side and three from the other were charged under the NSA, and the law was not specific to any group. Wherever we have used the NSA, it has been used in a non-discriminatory manner. In Bulandshahr also, strict action has been taken against the culprits. We have sent a strong message. There have been no riots in the State in the last two years. Look at the peaceful and calm manner in which the Kumbh was completed. I am pleased that we could do it.
Cow protection has been a big priority for you. How do you analyse the impact of your measures, given that farmers, many of whom are your supporters, are now complaining that stray cattle are ruining their farms?
See, what you are describing was the situation two months earlier. Things have significantly improved since then. This has been a legacy issue. Yes, we have shut down all the illegal slaughter houses. The National Green Tribunal and court orders on this predate our government. When illegal slaughter houses were closed, a large number of cattle were let loose. We have to protect them, and we also have to protect the farms. Originally our plan was to encourage the community to take care of these cattle. My idea was that cow protection will be done by the community, and we would support their efforts. But it did not succeed in many places. Low milk-yielding breeds are not viable for farmers. We are working on that. Secondly, we wanted to spread sex selection methods to have more female progeny — bulls are needed less as farming gets mechanised. Thirdly, we wanted to develop technology that could refill cooking gas cylinders with gas from dung so that cattle remain productive. But the farmers began saying we should take care of these stray cattle first. As of now, we have four lakh cattle being taken care of in shelters. We needed money for this. We used the MGNREGA for construction in some places. We introduced a cess on foreign liquor in some places. We also generated some money from mandis — this is related to the welfare of farmers, after all. Our measures for cow protection will continue.
You have been renaming places. What is the thought behind this?
If Bombay can become Mumbai, Bangalore can become Bengaluru, Madras can become Chennai, and Calcutta can become Kolkota, there is no reason why Allahabad should not become Prayagraj and Faizabad should not become Ayodhya. To re-establish our original identity, we have renamed these places. I am happy that people have welcomed this.
But there are no religious undertones in the case of the other cities you mentioned.
That is not the case. Mumbai is from Mumba Devi Mandir. You are from Kerala. How did Trivandrum become Thiruvananthapuram? It is after Bhagwan Vishnu. We are only restoring our heritage.
But aren’t Mughals also part of our heritage?
No. Foreign aggressors cannot be part of our heritage. Those who are our citizens today are our citizens. Their security and welfare are our responsibility. But if someone says that foreign aggressors are part of our inheritance, I will say that is slave mentality.
What are you going to fight this Lok Sabha election on?
Development, good governance and nationalism. In the last five years under Modiji, the BJP-led alliance has, through numerous welfare schemes, touched the lives of all people without any discrimination. There has been unprecedented progress in infrastructure, and external and internal security. All this is being achieved through nationalism. When Modiji came to power, dozens of districts were affected by Naxalism. Today, it is confined to five-six districts. The Northeast had several separatist incidents — all the extremists were neutralised through one surgical strike. Kashmir used to witness massive incidents of stone pelting. Today, it is under control. The surgical strike broke the backbone of terrorism and the recent air strikes in Pakistan-controlled territories… All this is unprecedented. People want India to be prosperous and resolute. Modiji is able to do all this because this is a stable government. He is a strong leader. The Opposition has no leader, and it does not have the right intentions.
You mentioned security. On this question, several BJP leaders, including Mr. Modi, have spoken about threats coming from those who ‘live in India but who speak the language of Pakistan’. What does this mean?
Direct or indirect support to terrorism, or to show softness towards terrorists, is unfortunate. For the Congress to promise that it will dilute sedition laws is an act of encouraging anti-national forces. To use ‘ji’ while referring to terrorists… I am surprised by the level of [Congress President] Rahul Gandhi’s understanding. He uses foul language for Modiji. Our Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, is being attacked in vicious language.
Unlike last time, your key opponents, the SP and the BSP, are now together. They won all three byelections after they came together.
Those were byelections. That won’t have any impact now. The BJP will win 74-plus seats in U.P. That is more than the 2014 tally.
And when will you become Prime Minister?
I am not in that race. I am happy in the service of U.P.
Are you planning to campaign outside U.P. too?
U.P. will be my focus, but I will campaign wherever the party asks me to.
You have apparently postponed the plan for the temple in Ayodhya. Meanwhile, you have announced a Ram statue in Ayodhya.
We are making progress. We won’t backtrack. Whatever we have announced, we shall do.
The temple or the statue?
Everything will be completed during our tenure.