FE Exclusive | Opposition to blame for bringing Karnataka hijab row to Uttar Pradesh: BJP’s Sudhanshu Trivedi

Sudhanshu Trivedi blamed the Opposition for bringing the Karnataka Hijab row into national discourse and asked who took the issue to the Supreme Court. The protests in Aligarh and Prayagraj, he said, showed that it was the Opposition that brought the issue to Uttar Pradesh, and not the BJP.

Trivedi exuded confidence that the people of UP would repose their faith in Yogi Adityanath on the basis of its development record and the improvement it has brought about in the law and order situation. 

The Bharatiya Janata Party has rejected the Opposition’s charges that the protests over the Karnataka Hijab row, that slowly spread to parts of Uttar Pradesh as well, were designed to benefit the ruling party in the ongoing polls. Rajya Sabha MP and BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi says that it was the Opposition which brought the issue to UP and expanded it nationally. In an exclusive interaction with Financial Express Online, Trivedi exuded confidence that the people of UP would repose their faith in Yogi Adityanath on the basis of its development record and the improvement it has brought about in the law and order situation. 

Here are the edited excerpts of the interview:

Opinion polls suggest that the SP-RLD alliance is giving the BJP a tough fight, especially in western Uttar Pradesh. How do you think the election results will turn out?

All opinion polls so far have given 220-230 seats to the BJP and a maximum of 250 seats. The standard margin of error in them is 2 to 3 per cent. So, even if we assume that they go against us, we are still over 200 seats. And if they go in our favour, then we are close to 300. This is what opinion polls suggest. But the BJP’s assessment is that we will perform better than the previous elections. There are 2-3 reasons behind it. The biggest reason is law and order. Try and remember the law and order situation during those (SP government’s) times – the way kidnappings, rapes were done, extortion was a business. And now, under Yogi ji’s leadership, the Uttar Pradesh government has done excellent work when it comes to law and order. 

Also, both the central and state governments have been giving free ration to the poor for the past two years in this COVID era. Try and recall what western UP was remembered for – Bulandshahr gangrape, Muzaffarnagar riots, then in Mathura – remember the first riot took place in Kosi Kalan and the last one too in Jawahar Bagh. Now, there is the Jewar Airport, the expressway from Delhi to Meerut, the Film City is coming up in Noida now and all the preparations have been done. So, the change is visible.  

Look at eastern Uttar Pradesh. (Do you) remember what eastern UP was known for previously? Abu Salem, Chhota Shakeel, Mukhtar Ansari, Ateeq Ahmed. Today, a state university is being built in that same Azamgarh, a fertiliser factory near Gorakhpur… and an international airport in Kushinagar, Kashi Vishwanath corridor, Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir and Purvanchal Expressway. So, if you collectively see — the development, the law and order situation, providing basic necessities to the poor in their worst of times — the way this government has worked, we are confident that we will be in a better position than we were after the 2017 elections. 

The SP-RLD alliance is getting a lot of support due to the farmers’ protest against the farm laws. Was there an assessment done by the BJP over the farmers’ angst which led to the repeal of the three agri laws?

There are 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh. How many had protests going on? You can’t even name 10 districts. But that is not important. The prime minister looked into this issue very sensitively. If any one section of farmers – let’s not discuss whether they are right or wrong – is dissatisfied due to some reason, then he (prime minister) acted like the head of the family and said that we will move back for some time. 

The prime minister, in his address on farm laws repeal on November 19, 2021 on Guru Nanak Dev Prakash Parv, said that he is apologising because he failed to convince them about the benefits of the laws. He believed that since we have been unable to make the protesting farmers understand for the past some time, we will take them back.

But had they looked into the Swaminathan Committee report… It clearly mentions that subsidy of wheat and rice should be stopped, MSP should not be given, should be given on the basis of diversified crops. But today, the issue is not about what’s written, what’s right and what’s wrong. The issue was that if someone feels emotionally distressed, it is the responsibility of the head of the family to respect his sentiments, and that generous heart was shown by the prime minister. 

Some prominent leaders from the BJP have jumped ship to the Samajwadi Party in the past few months. How big an impact do you think this will have on the election results?       

You see Swami Prasad Maurya’s interviews. He claims to have done so much. This clearly shows that as a minister, he had complete freedom which is why he did so many things. And then when he says that his expectations were humiliated is a contradiction. The people of UP are vigilant, they understand such things very well. 

But Swami Prasad Maurya and other leaders who went with him, all alleged in their resignations that the Yogi Adityanath government is ignorant of the needs of the backward and the poor. 

That is why I ask you to watch their interviews on TV channels. On one hand, he says he did so and so things, which means you did things while being a part of the government. On the other hand, he says the government is not giving attention. The fact is that there were some expectations which could not be fulfilled. When the Model Code of Conduct came into force and he was no longer a minister, then that sense of dissatisfaction rose because of those unfulfilled ambitions. This is evident. As far as the backward classes are concerned, in the Hindi heartland – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh – we gave five backward chief ministers and four deputy CMs… and that too from different castes and communities. 

What the Opposition has done is to raise the issue of caste and deliver power into the hands of the family. How are parties who do politics on the basis of caste unable to see someone from their own caste when it actually comes to giving power? All they can see are people from their own family. This itself shows that they have nothing to do with backwards, or the society, or their caste itself. 

The Opposition has been accusing the BJP of misusing religion for vote bank. What do you have to say on this?

Tell me, who said “100 per cent Muslims will have to vote for us”? Kamal Nath! Their Kasganj candidate in 2017, Qasim Sherwani, says that “if we come to power, then no police official will have the courage to point a finger on any Muslim”. In the 2017 polls, Mulayam Singh Yadav Ji said, “Akhilesh did nothing for Muslims.” And then Akhilesh enumerates what he has done for Muslims. “What more could I have done for Muslims. I got 16 Hindus killed”. “Marwa diye” is the word which Mulayam Singh ji said then. “I wouldn’t have regretted if even 40 had died”.  

The Congress party, through the Prime Minister, said, “Muslims should have the first right over the national resources of India”. And then say that we use religion for politics! 

But if the Yogi Adityanath government is fighting these elections on a development plank, then why is there often the mention of ‘Aurangzeb’, ‘Abba Jaan’ or Mathura and Ayodhya? 

We have always talked about development, you can listen to the speeched by Yogi Ji, Modi Ji or Amit Shah Ji, Nadda Ji, Rajnath Ji… Who brought this ‘Jinnah’? Akhilesh Yadav! “Pakistan is not an enemy of India,” said Akhilesh Yadav in an interview to an English newspaper. As soon as the legal marital age for women was raised from 18 to 21, KT Hasan, Samajwadi Party MP, said: “These people are bringing common civil code, you will not be able to do four marriages”.     

“Babri Masjid is in my heart,” said Shafiqur Rahman Barq, Samajwadi Party. And who wrote the book ‘Ayodhya Rising’ at the time of elections? Salman Khurshid! Who referred to “Hindu Boko Haram” in it? Salman Khurshid! Moreover, Rahul Gandhi ji addressed a rally in Jaipur on the issue of inflation, and brought reference to Uttar Pradesh and gave a speech of 8-10 minutes on Hindu vs Hindutva. All these topics have been brought by them, not us. We want to talk about development, but they run from it because they know they are not in the situation to debate with us on development. 

Akhilesh Yadav Ji is saying that he will implement the erstwhile pension scheme. In the last 32 years, Samajwadi Party has been in power in the state for the maximum 14 years, then you did not, and today you promise so much. There is a popular rural proverb on this: “Baap na maarin medki aur bitwa teerandaaz” (father couldn’t shoot a frog and son poses as an archer). So, people of Uttar Pradesh can very well differentiate between what you say and what you do. 

When we talk about polarisation, it is alleged by the Opposition that the Hijab row in Karnataka is benefitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.  

When the issue of Hijab came, then Priyanka Gandhi – ‘Ladki Hoon Lad Sakti Hoon’ – gave a statement in favour of Hijab. She didn’t have time when the body of a Dalit girl, who was murdered brutally, was found in the farms of a Samajwadi Party leader in Unnao. Was that not an issue of women’s rights? The Hijab issue was a matter of women’s rights? 

Who brought this issue of Karnataka into Uttar Pradesh? Why are students in Aligarh protesting on this? Why are protests being held in Prayagraj? Why are protests being held in Malegaon? Who is making it an issue? Who went to the Supreme Court? If this was an issue of Karnataka, it should have remained localised to Karnataka. You took it nationally and inside Uttar Pradesh. 

Amid this Karnataka Hijab row, a minister from your party said that a uniform civil code must be brought in. What is your party’s stand on this? 

Not just the minister, the party’s stand is quite clear on this. Before this, the Supreme Court of India has said several times that a common civil code should be there, and the directive principles of the Constitution clearly state that a common civil code should be present. 

But in 2020 and then recently, Rajya Sabha MP Kirodi Lal Meena introduced the private members bill. However, he was himself not present in the House when the bill was to be introduced. Is the party trying to delay the UCC? 

Such accusations have been levelled against us for quite a long time. But you saw that we removed 35A, we removed Article 370, we removed Triple Talaq, we ended the tradition of mahram in which a Muslim woman cannot go on Haj alone, she has to be accompanied by a man. Now, even if two women want to go, they can. We broadened the path for construction of the temple at Shri Ram Janmabhoomi. So be rest assured that when the right time comes, we will clear the path for all things crucial for the country’s development and making the lives of citizens better. 

The Opposition alleges that democracy is under threat in the BJP’s rule. They say that the party doesn’t discuss when bringing the bills, nor when they are repealing a bill… 

We were ready for discussion on each and every bill. The problem is they were running from discussions when they were in power, and are doing the same when they are not in power now. We asked them to discuss farm laws and discussion was held twice, even in the session previous to the last one. And then they say that we don’t want to discuss, it is them who are running away from the discussion. 

But they say, the government refused to discuss the repeal of farm laws..

There is scope of discussion when there are two parties and each one says that these are our views on the issue; but they are asking us to repeal immediately. When we were asking for a discussion, they said there is no need for discussion, it should immediately be withdrawn. Now when the prime minister has immediately withdrawn, (they ask) why no discussion? There are more than a dozen statements where they (Opposition) have said that they have demanded immediate withdrawal without any discussion. When both the parties have agreed, what is the point of discussion? 

Yogi Adityanath claims that he has improved the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh. Don’t you think incidents like Hathras and Lakhimpur Kheri make this claim hollow?

In both cases, the government took immediate and effective action. When you want to describe the case through one incident, then speak about the reality. The Yogi government has properties worth Rs 1,886 crore of mafias. Can anyone else tell if they have seized even Rs 1 crore property? Tell me… Mukhtar Ansari goes and sits in a Punjab jail because he thinks he is safe there because there is a Congress government there. Moreover, the bombings in UP courts in 2007, in Varanasi, Ayodhya, Lucknow… the Akhilesh Yadav government tried to withdraw cases against the accused. The high court intervened later and the accused were sentenced to life imprisonment and death. So, it is quite visible what the government did on law and order. 

If the BJP loses UP elections, what will be its strategy keeping the 2024 Lok Sabha polls in mind?

There is no possibility of any ifs or buts! Such presumptions are always made ahead of every election – that this is enough, now BJP will see its downfall. But be rest assured that we are moving forward steadily under the leadership of Modi Ji, and in Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Yogi Ji, the way our organisation is working under the leadership of Nadda Ji…. There is no scope for any suspicion that the BJP will repeat its emphatic victory and move ahead.    

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