We are not going to give up our thinking if we go into a prospective alliance.
Sheila Dikshit, Congress’ chief ministerial candidate for Uttar Pradesh, talks about the split in the SP and how prepared her party is for the Assembly elections. In an interview to Ashhar Khan, Ms Dikshit says that all secular forces should come together to beat the communal ideology of the BJP.
Several developments have taken place in the Samajwadi Party in the last couple of days. How does the Congress see this?
One should always understand that till something happens in politics you can’t say that this is what will happen next or this is my view on it. The developments are taking place because the Samajwadi Party has virtually spilt. This is a major event. Now what will happen thereafter will it be a five-corner contest with two Samajwadi parties or still a four-corner contest if any of the parties join hands remains to be seen. From the Congress’ point of view, I can only say that we do think that secular forces should be strengthened to beat the communal ideology of the BJP.
You have been declared the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress months in advance. Will you be willing to relinquish the post if an alliance is proposed?
Yes, yes. You see if there is and I am using the word if there is a coordinated effort between two parties how can you have two chief ministerial candidates. That’s it, simple. There is nothing much to it.
You have been campaigning very hard in Uttar Pradesh. Don’t you feel you are being let down by your party?
No, not at all. I tell you that politically, circumstances always keep on changing and if you are unable to adapt yourself to the demands of a changing situation of which your party is also a part then I don’t think you are suited to be in politics. In fact, I would be letting down my party. So whatever the party says and asks me to do I do that. Certainly circumstances are changing since I was announced as the chief ministerial candidate. One scenario could be that the party will change it another could be they don’t change. We always need to fit ourselves in the state of affairs of the party. The party is paramount not the individuals.
Your vice-president raked up the issue of the Sahara and Birla diaries apparently your name also figures in them. So in these two issues the party has let you down. Are you personally disappointed?
I have no idea about this I have not seen these diaries. I can’t recollect anybody giving me money like that. I certainly cannot. My only plea now is that since this is becoming such a controversial issue and so many names are involved in this, let’s appoint a very high-powered committee. Let there be a credible enquiry so that it gets into the details of all this. In fact, a time-bound, high-powered committee is what we need. As far as the second part of the question is concerned, I am hopefully mature enough not to feel disappointed about these things because the party is paramount and I am not scared of anything.
Do you think Akhilesh Yadav will be a good chief minister?
Well, he has been the chief minister for five years now. To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing against him in Uttar Pradesh. Also, he is young and dynamic.
If the proposed alliance happens then what happens to the issues that the Congress has been raising in the campaign in Uttar Pradesh since July?
We would certainly stand by the issues which have been raised. After all, Rahul Gandhi did a month-long yatra in Uttar Pradesh. We have raised the issue of farm loan waiver. We have supported it and we have done it in the past when the UPA was in power in 2008. Second, the issue of reducing electricity bills of farmers to 50 per cent. So this is our ideology.
Now we are not going to give up our thinking if we go into a prospective alliance. We have been in alliances earlier also but our core issues have never been compromised. Yes, we have had a terrific campaign in Uttar Pradesh; we have touched base in all the districts of the state. We have also collected the kisan maang patras or forms from farmers regarding farm loan waiver. So there is no way we are going to deviate from our beliefs.
How do you see the chances of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. Are they being ignored?
I must tell you it is a very fluid situation. This breakup of the Samajwadi Party has changed the situation quite considerably. There are four major contenders. Now we are facing a situation where there could be five depending on the split within the SP. At the moment, there can be no surety about any party in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP is also putting a spirited campaign, though they don’t have a chief ministerial face.
How is it a spirited campaign? I have not heard anything of this sort. The Prime Minister’s public meeting is alright; it is all hyped. I have not heard anything that this is what they plan to do or they have some specific schemes for the people of Uttar Pradesh. Last I heard something was some months ago about putting up a memorial to Lord Ram and Sita in Ayodhya. That also seems to have fizzled out. So I really don’t know what their agenda is.
Elections have been announced so now will you put out Priyanka Gandhi to campaign?
Yes, we all would like Priyanka Gandhi to be our star campaigner. But the list will be announced shortly now. Whoever is asked to go and campaign must do it. Uttar Pradesh is a large state and also politically very critical for us.
There have been reports that Congressmen are not getting along well with your strategist Prashant Kishor?
I am not aware of it at all; this must be the talk within you people. Prashant was very much there the last time we had a meeting. So I guess he is involved
What do you think is the reason for advancing Budget dates?
The impression which I have of the Central government is that it is constantly doing something to divert the attention of the people. It’s a different matter altogether as to how much it has succeeded. I feel there is no follow up. Why have they advanced the date of the Budget? There are certain norms which you follow. When elections take place it’s a period where no decisions are taken. If you take a decision in the Budget and give out sops then it will look like you are attracting the voters towards one party. Is that a fair election? Is that a fair approach? No other party can present the Budget as they are not in power.