In an exclusive conversation with News18 editor-in-chief Rahul Joshi, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath talked about multiple issues right from tackling the menace of stray cattle, the state's immunity to economic slowdown owing to the robust growth in the agriculture and MSME sectors to Hindi as a unifying language in India and the Unnao rape case. In this exclusive interview, Adityanath also spoke about the death of toddlers at a hospital in Gorakhpur in 2017, Swachh Bharat Mission and its aim to eradicate encephalitis, his controversial Ali vs Bajrangbali speech, and events leading up to his nomination as the chief minister and development in the state.
Here is the full text of the interview:
Rahul Joshi: We have come to Gorakhpur temple today to talk to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Thanks a lot for talking to us.
Yogi Adityanath: Thank you
RJ: We've been spending time here since yesterday. We visited the temple too. The fact that you run this is a big thing in itself. How you manage to strike a balance between politics and your responsibilities here?
>YA: See, these are not two different responsibilities. It is one large responsibility. This is one system that has been going on for hundreds of years. We are a small part of it.
Religion, in the context of Indian culture, is a way of life. This is closely associated with public welfare and welfare of the self. When we talk about religion, two aspects come forward. One of its rise and another when it settled. The first aspect teaches us to spend our life for the good of others. Doing everything we can to benefit others. It talks about associating oneself in the science of a better existence. The second aspect is about finding the self. The two are deeply linked and are one.
Both of these, in the context of Indian culture, are the basis of everything. One is the smaller version, while the other is the larger version of the same thing.
RJ: Our audiences would want to know how your journey started. When and how did you reach here? How did you spend your time here?
YA: This the highest Peeth of the Nath community. Nath community is an important branch of the Hindu Sanatan. It was through Goraksha Peethadhishwar Mahant Avaidyanath Ji Maharaj in the early 1990s that I got a chance to come here. He went on to give me Yog Diksha. After giving me Yog Diksha, he taught me the rules and regulations of the Sanatan Dharma. After learning all this from him, I was inducted formally into the system. Today, we associate this place with the cosmic development of people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and our party chief Amit Shah have handed me the responsibility of Uttar Pradesh and I have taken it up for the same motive with which I came to the Peeth.
RJ: We are with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, right in front of the cowshed. It is said there are 300-350 cows here and there was a time when you knew each of them by their name. You fed pooris to each one of them. How did you manage that?
YA: In the last two-and-a-half years, my connection has snapped. Otherwise, every cow here and their calves knew me. The older cows still recognise me. The newer ones, however, have not been able to recognise me because I get to come here only once a month now. And sometimes, it so happens that I am not able to come here because of my busy schedule.
Otherwise, earlier, I used to call everyone by their name and they used to come. It felt really nice. Of late, the connection has weakened because of my work. Every cow here has an Indian origin. The local species of Gir, Saiwal are here. There are some from Haryana. Other good quality bovines are also here.
>RJ: Cow happens to hold special importance in the Hindu religion. What is your take on that? For example, when we go to urban spaces like Delhi and Mumbai, people there make fun of this and call it an obsession for cows. How do you take this?
YA: With India being an agrarian country, bovine plays an important role. And I feel that people need to travel to villages and farmlands to understand the importance of cows. I believe that one cow can not only take care of an entire family's needs but can also provide for 30 acres of farmland. The chemical fertilisers that one buys can easily be substituted with cow dung and cow urine. Cows are also important in the context of zero-budget farming that was institutionalised by the late Manohar Parrikar as Goa CM and Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat.
Secondly, it is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has focussed on in previous years and has been focussing on this year. He started Pashu Arogya Mela in Mathura and also talks about doubling farmers' income. With farming, he also focusses on cattle that are used by farmers, which is why he started the Pashu Arogya Mela.
The movement against single-use plastic that was started by us not only helps the environment but will also help save animals from dangerous plastic.
RJ: How do you tackle the issue of stray cattle? You have hundreds of crores in this scheme.
YA: Yes, it is going on. This scheme has just started. We have started a campaign on stray cattle. That will be a successful campaign. As of now, there are roughly 3.5 lakh stray cattle in the state. We have come up with a scheme which says that if anybody wants to keep a stray cow in their house, we will pay them Rs 900 per month on the condition that they take care of the cow. The person will also need to take the cow to a veterinarian every month where she is checked and examined. We will pay them for all of this.
RJ: It has been seen that Hindus are leaving their cows once they stop providing milk.
YA: See, there are two sides to this argument. One is the financial condition of the common people. Second, for the common man, a cow that provides 100-200 millilitres of milk is not viable. To address this issue, we have started a new practice. We are trying to make sure that the cows are of a superior origin. Secondly, during the times of mechanical farming, the use of oxen and calves has reduced.
RJ: You have completed two-and-a-half years as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Our viewers would want to know what is it that you consider your biggest achievement?
YA: Changing the perception of Uttar Pradesh. The entire country believed that nothing can happen in Uttar Pradesh and there were people who believed that Uttar Pradesh has extortion and corruption and that no development can ever happen here. In the last two-and-a-half years, our government has managed to change that perception.
Our government has laid the foundation for good governance and development in the last 2.5 years. It is the result of this that three large events have taken place in the state this year. This includes Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj, Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas and peaceful Lok Sabha elections on 80 seats. Also, no re-polling was needed in any of the booths unlike in West Bengal where re-polling was needed in all seven phases. During every phase and in every booth, there was violence in West Bengal. Dozens of people were killed.
There has been no riot or kidnapping in the state in the last two-and-a-half years. There has been a spike in investments because of better law and order. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 changed the agenda of the nation. The focus earlier was on caste and creed; now it has been changed to villages, poor, women and youth. Now we can see large-scale results. It is the result of all this that we have been able to be successful in the state.
Earlier, there used to be farmer protests in every two-three months. But in the last 2.5 years, there have been no farmer agitations. This is because we have extended all central and state benefits to farmers, which is why they are happy. In order to free farmers from the burden of debt, we started loan waivers. Uttar Pradesh is the first state that successfully implemented loan waivers. Today, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana, Krishi Sichai Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Sammaan Nidhi Yojana have all been successfully implemented in the state. Payments for sugarcane farmers were pending for years. Our state government has released payments worth Rs 73,000 crore.
For the first time, a new procurement policy has come, free from all middlemen. A system where a farmer is getting more than the MSP and his cost of production. Providing more than the MSP not only brings happiness to the farmer's family but also increases his income.
RJ: Today, in the country as well as the state, in the context of the economy, the biggest issue is that of jobs for the youth. In the last five years, it was being said that there has been jobless growth. There has been growth, but not many jobs have been generated. Now because there is a slowdown, people are losing their jobs too.
YA: What you are calling economic recession is nothing but a slowdown and this is the case globally. The entire world is affected by this and naturally, India is going through the same. However, Uttar Pradesh will not be affected by this because there is robust growth in two sectors in the state " agriculture and MSMEs. Therefore Uttar Pradesh will not be affected.
Secondly, the state government, in the last two-and-a-half years, has provided 2.25 lakh jobs to the youth of Uttar Pradesh. In the next two-and-a-half years, we plan to provide 2 lakh more jobs.
Apart from this, we have helped 30 lakh youth attain financial independence by means of business investment strategies. In the last two-and-a-half years, Uttar Pradesh saw investments northwards of Rs 2 lakh crore. 'One product, one district' scheme has been launched that promotes indigenous forms of production. We have also paid special focus to MSMEs in the state. We started a program for its mapping, marketing and packaging. And I am happy that there is now enough scope for export in this.
In the five years of this government, roughly 25 lakh youth will be linked to MSMEs and 'one product, one district' scheme and will be provided with financial independence via jobs and other forms of employment.
RJ: We will continue with this discussion, but since you have brought us here, we want to know what exactly happens here, what is the importance of this place?
YA: This is the temple's assembly hall, which has been built in my Guru Dada's name. My Guru Mahant ji Adityanath made this in the memory of his guru. Every religious event that takes place is concluded here. There are two additional highlights about this place. The stage that you see there has pictures of every Mahant Ji. Above it is a library that has books on ancient India. Research scholars get scholarships and a lot of material from here. There is a third highlight too. Portraits of other hermits and people who have influenced the nation in a positive manner. You fill find Guru Nanak Dev Ji here along with Guru Govind Singh Ji, Sant Kabir Das, Ravi Das Ji, Meera Bai, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Rana Pratap.
RJ: You came here from Paudhi Garhwal. You became Yogi Adityanath from Ajay Kumar Bisht. What did you learn from here?
YA: My sadhna is entirely spiritual. There can be curiosity in the mind of a man. My entire sadhna is through Goraksha Peeth and Nath community. In politics, going forward with public welfare campaigns, I am only taking my sadhna forward. This Peeth alone caters to educational and other needs of more than four dozen places. Lastly, on how to completely immerse my public life for welfare, I got my inspiration from Modi Ji. Due to this, we have not only been able to carry forward welfare activities in the state but have also excelled in them.
RJ: You were talking law and order. Uttar Pradesh is generally referred to as the encounter state. And you have defended that as well in the form of a bullet for every bullet. Do you think that has brought about an improvement in the law and order situation in the country? Even today, incidents such as Unnao rape happen.
YA: Cases such as Unnao rape have nothing to do with law and order situation in the state. We also have to understand that these cases are associated with the mindset of the people. People need to be taught good things for these things to end. We have to remember that the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh is at its best in the last 15-20 years. The administration's sensitivity towards the common man and the seriousness of acting on complaints needs to be credited. The second important thing that needs to be remembered is that when the culprit starts shooting, our jawan cannot sit there with folded hands. They need to be answered in the language of a culprit, a history-sheeter.
RJ: You have come here to meet the people¦
YA: I come here to meet people¦
RJ: We saw just now that you were helping people. Everybody expects something from you. They come to you with their problems through the DM, Commissioner and DG. What do you do with those applications? How do you deal with them?
YA: We have finalised some ways to solve the problems of the common people. Firstly, every officer will sit to listen to public issues from 9:30-10:30 am on a daily basis and we will solve the issues within a particular time period. Secondly, we have started a portal here, the IGRS portal, where people across the state can register their complaint. The problem is solved by the administration, starting from the district level. Thirdly, if there is any carelessness in any of the administrative department or the problem is not being solved, there is a CM helpline.
The fourth one is the anti-corruption portal. The aim of this portal is that if anybody is asking for a bribe or if anybody is not completing the work on time, people can upload the audio or video of the person. After that, the CM office will verify the proof and will take action. I personally evaluate everything on a monthly basis. The public comes with their problems. We try to solve their issues within a limited period of time, but we also try to solve everything on merit.
RJ: I want to know how many hours you work in a day. We are with you since 6 am. When do you wake up and when do you sleep?
YA: Since childhood, I used to wake up at 4 am. The puja at the temple starts from 3 am, so our priests at the temple and everybody involved have to wake up at 2:30 am at bramhamuhurat so that they can complete the puja. I get involved in the puja by 4 am. Whether I am in Gorakhpur or Lucknow, this process goes on till late night. If I am on a field visit, then I try to complete the process by 11-11:30 at night. When I am at Lucknow, it goes on till 12-12:30 am. This is a part of the continuous process. The management was off the track so more effort was required initially, but now everything is on track and this is not the situation right now.
RJ: Now let us discuss some points on the economic situation of Uttar Pradesh. How will you bring the private sector investment in your state? I remember that when you came to power, you wanted to bring Samsung and TCS here. Is there any investment by the private sector? GDP growth is declining, how will you handle that?
YA: UP's growth has increased, not decreased. We have framed a policy for industrial development. Secondly, for any investment, people need security. They want to save themselves from that web, so people need a solution. We started our policy along with the security measures and this is the reason that within two-and-a-half years, we have been successful in bringing more than Rs 2 lakh crore investment to our state. We are also focused on our MSME sector. Uttar Pradesh has prospered a lot in this. Our 'one product, one district' policy¦ We brought this considering the growth of MSME sector. I believe that both these sectors have been really important to us and we have got huge investment in this area. Now, everybody knows that there is an investment guarantee in Uttar Pradesh. People know about UP's better connectivity, big market and cheaper manpower. Now we are working to improve the investment rate.
RJ: Don't you think that mob lynching incidents in UP and riot-like situations affect investment?
YA: No, it used to happen, it doesn't happen now. In two-and-a-half years, there has been no riot. Secondly, there has been no incident of mob lynching in UP because we removed elements that incite riots in the first stage. We stopped illegal slaughtering at an early stage. We brought in well-managed shelters for cows.
RJ: So you want to say that the situation is better than before. Do you think that you were late to reacting in the Unnao rape case?
YA: No. The matter is still in court. We gave the case to the CBI. We arrested the accused and our government took the matter forward. If there was any carelessness anywhere, we questioned them. Whether it was police or hospital, we analysed everything. The rape victim met with an accident on 28 July. We want to know whether it was an incident or accident. It should come out and we hope the CBI gives a report soon. Everything will come to light soon.
When some cases become fodder for media trial, we don't show all the aspects of the case to the society and the truth gets hidden. We need to be careful and I also want to appeal to the media that we should provide news, not our views. When we try to impose our views, it becomes an issue of media trial. It becomes a disaster and people stay unaware of the actual facts and the real criminal takes advantage of this.
RJ: It seems that you feel this might be an accident¦
YA: In July 2017, the way the matter of children suffering from encephalitis was taken up in Gorakhpur¦ people have been dying of encephalitis in Gorakhpur and eastern UP since the last 20-40 years, but the number of deaths was less in 2017 as compared to 2016. But it was said that the reason for deaths in 2017 was a deficiency of oxygen and the media showed this for three straight days. They said children died due to oxygen deficiency. When we provide the news without knowing actual facts, we do injustice to people.
RJ: Your work towards encephalitis is much appreciated. But we see in the Niti Aayog report that Uttar Pradesh is the last on the health index.
YA: We have got distorted management. In the Niti Aayog report for 2016-2017, Uttar Pradesh has a very low ranking. But after 2017-2018, I can say that under the guidance of our prime minister, the Niti Aayog selected 115 aspirational districts. If you see the list, UP has a good ranking for the last two years. Secondly, UP has been awarded for decreasing maternal mortality rate in Etawah and Ferozabad districts.
We took steps towards the prevention and cure of encephalitis. Not only this, I was the first person to bring the issue of encephalitis in front of the world. As an MP, and as a yogi, I started this fight. I took the campaign from streets roads to Parliament. The Swachh Bharat mission was started by the time I was given the charge of Uttar Pradesh, but it was not implemented in the state since the previous government was not interested in it. We implemented the Swachh Bharat Mission in the state and the results are there for all to see.
We made the health department as nodal department and with inter-departmental cooperation, we have brought encephalitis to almost zero level. And if this goes in the same way, then I think we will be able to eradicate encephalitis. What used to be a dream is turning into reality. Its foundation stone is Swachh Bharat Mission which was initiated by the PM. If you talk about the health facilities, the previous government did not take life support ambulances. Because of that, 23 crore people were deprived of the good facility, especially in case of accidents or during cardiac arrest. I took charge in March and we approached the central government in April. We got 150 life support ambulances. We provided two to each district. During the start of this year, we asked for 100 more ambulances and we got them. Today, we have 250 life support ambulances in the entire state.
I think we helped 1 lakh people during their critical hour by providing them with better medical facilities. We saved lives. From 1947 to 2016, there were only 12 medical colleges in the state. From 2016 to 2019, we built 15 medical colleges and we even started admissions this year in some colleges. Uttar Pradesh has two AIIMS, in Gorakhpur and Rae Bareli. We have also strengthened the district hospitals. There is a lot to be done in this field. We have sent national mobile medical vans to villages where doctors were not willing to go. We implemented this wherever there was an issue.
We also tried to provide better medical facilities to everyone. People who had the Ayushman Bharat card got the facilities, but 56 lakh people were deprived of this. We registered them in the Chief Minister Jan Arogya Yojna. This is a process and we are taking technology's help to make it better. We brought telemedicine facility to places where doctors never visited. We implemented this in Balrampur district. Balrampur is also a district where doctors never used to visit. We opened a KGMU satellite centre there. KGM doctors will visit there and this is the system we want to be implemented.
RJ: I will go back to Lok Sabha elections. You are giving such a confidential interview for the first time. I remember I met you during elections. In Kairana, Phulpur and Gorakhpur, when you lost in the by-elections, BJP's senior leaders also were not able to get more than 20-25 seats. You got 64 seats during the elections. How did you make the turn-around? At one time, it was being said that there are chances for Mahagathbandhan and that Muslim-Jat-Yadav combination was impossible to break. How did you perform there?
YA: Before the elections, there was a slogan being raised - 'Modi Hai Toh Mumkin Hai'. Modi ji has a magical personality. We tried to make the programs run under his guidance available to the last person. Secondly, Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana by-election was a lesson for us. We analysed our mistakes and I started monitoring everything myself. PM's leadership, Amit Shah's strategy and our program helped us reach every poor person. People were already suffering from casteist and dynastic politics. People trusted us and BJP got 64 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
RJ: Mayawati appealed to the people to vote for the Gathbandhan. You gave a statement at the time that "if Congress, Samajwadi Party and the BSP have Ali, then we have Bajrang Bali". Do you believe that to be the turning point?
YA: Every action has a reaction. If you have a vote bank, then we also have a vote bank. If you are proud of your vote bank, then we are also proud of ours. I did not mention any caste or community. I think a normal Hindu worships Bajrang Bali, but Mayawati appealed to a particular community. So I feel every action has a reaction, and the public considered it.
RJ: During those days, you also spoke about 'green virus' and EC barred you from campaigning. How do you see it? Do you think you shouldn't have done it?
YA: Not, it is not like that. If something is said, it is never that the person doesn't understand what he is saying. One part of the election is filled with communalism, and they are trying to provoke a certain class. We will give an answer to that. In politics, it is better to attack than be defensive and during the election, we did not do anything wrong. Modi ji's five-year tenure is the most ideal tenure after Independence.
Whether it is infrastructure, economic growth, social services. In any plan we implemented, we were never defensive. It was the same situation in the state. I had completed two years as UP CM by that time and we had a long list of developments. So we went to the public with that list and we made development and good governance our election issues. But when the opposition moved from these issues, we had to take some steps.
RJ: So you agree that you took advantage of the polarisation, whoever did it?
YA: We brought policies for villagers, farmers and women. They knew they would have to pay for what they did during their rule. People will compare and we brought the same comparison in front of the people. They also had two-and-a-half years after Modi ji became the PM. Samajwadi Party ruled UP for two-and-a-half years. They sanctioned only 63,000 applications under the PM Housing Scheme and our government is providing 25 lakh homes. Same with toilets. In the first 2.5 years, 3 crores toilets were to be constructed, but only 45 lakhs were built. Then our government came and in 2.5 years, we provided 2.61 crore toilets. That is the difference. Whenever we brought the comparison in front of the public, they appreciated us.
RJ: Around two-and-a-half years ago, when you got a huge mandate in UP, your name was nowhere in the media for the CM's chair. In fact, speculation was rife about one of the cabinet ministers and suddenly one evening, you went to Delhi by a special flight and then your name was announced. How were you chosen?
YA: I also did not know that I have to be the CM. I was nowhere in line, neither did I keep myself in the race. I campaigned in UP during elections. Wherever the party sent me, I campaigned. During the elections, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj called me. It was around 25 February. She said, 'Yogi ji a parliamentary delegation is visiting Port Louis, you should go'. I told her that I am not that interested and that I am involved in the election which was to continue till 6 March. She said, 'You have to go after 6 March and we want you to lead this if you agree'. I said I will have time after 6 March, so I can go. The election ended on 6 March, and on 8 March, I went to Delhi. My passport was already sent. Around 10 March, I was informed that the PMO has returned my passport and that I didn't have to go. Since it was counting day the next day, I took a flight for Gorakhpur and left. Sushma ji called me and said that the PM returned my passport and that it was important for me to stay in UP for counting day. The BJP won with a huge mandate. 13 March was Holi and I stayed in Gorakhpur. After Holi, I went to Delhi on the 16th. I went to attend the Parliamentary Party Meet. I met Amit Shah there. We had a normal discussion about the elections. He said, 'Don't leave Delhi, we will talk'.
RJ: He was giving you indications¦
YA: It was not clear. I kept thinking that elections are over, we have got the results, then what does he want to discuss. On the 17th, I had a question in Parliament. After that, I took the afternoon flight and left for Gorakhpur. On 16th evening, I got a call from Amit Shah asking me 'where are you'. I said I am in Gorakhpur. He asked me why I left when he had asked me to stay in Delhi. I said I came back to Gorakhpur since I had no work in Delhi. He said, 'Come to Delhi. It is urgent and we need to talk'.
It was 6 in the evening and I told him there was no immediate train or flight available. I would miss the last flight out of Lucknow too considering the travel time from Gorakhpur. He said, 'I am sending you a chartered plane tomorrow morning. You come to Delhi by that and don't tell anybody about this'. I reached Delhi around 11 am. Amit Shah said, 'Take this flight and go to Lucknow because in the evening at 4 pm, you will be chosen as leader of the elected MLAs. You have to take the oath tomorrow'. The decision was announced on 18th and I took the oath on 19th.
RJ: It looks like you were in their mind always. Amit Shah was trying to hint to you. He kept saying don't leave Delhi.
YA: Respected PM and Amit Shah must have thought something before electing me.
RJ: This was the first time you talked about this. When the opposition was ruling, it was said that there were four-and-a-half chief ministers in the state, including Azam Khan. It is said that the organisation here is also a power centre. Is it still a 3-4 CM scenario?
YA: Do you think that is the situation?
RJ: No, I don't feel that. I am just asking.
YA: UP has BJP-led government and government takes its own decisions. Yes, there is good balance between the government and the organisation. Balance is because we take the government programmes to the ground, but the organisation is necessary to provide feedback. In that situation and to keep a check on our plans, we keep a balance between the government and the organisation. Nobody is allowed to interfere in government matters. The government takes its decision keeping in mind the 23 crore people of the state.
RJ: I had one more motive to ask this question. We have heard from our sources that you might bring a third deputy CM from the Dalit community.
YA: No, nothing like that. We have already restructured our cabinet. You must have seen that we chose 18 ministers.
RJ: I have seen that some were moved from their portfolios. Was this a performance-based decision?
YA: It was also based on performance.
RJ: So you are saying there is no place for third deputy CM?
YA: No. It was not required. The government is doing its work properly.
RJ: The high court has removed 17 OBCs from the SC/ST list. How will this affect your politics and what are your future plans?
YA: The high court gave this decision. In 2017, the division bench instructed the government to issue SC certificates to these 17 OBC categories, but this will depend on the final decision of the court. Considering this statement, the department of social welfare brought these rules. The matter was already in court and the court evaluated this. These are parliamentary matters. Parliament can decide who should be included in the SC/ST category. The court instructed the head of the social welfare department. They implemented this to save themselves from contempt. But this is also true that a big community was not getting the benefits of government plans. OBCs should also get benefits.
RJ: Will you challenge this decision?
YA: This was the high court's decision. We have formed a committee and we are evaluating this. A high-level committee is working.
RJ: So you will take this forward?
YA: It was not a government decision. The high court gave instruction and the department followed it. It was part of the process.
RJ: While I was coming here, I explored the areas around the temple. I saw many Muslims also live here and I have heard that people come here for offerings. I want to know since you have given statements against Muslims, what is your relationship with the Muslim community?
YA: I have the same relationship with them that I have with the rest of the people. We don't divide the society on the basis of caste and religion. I might have given statements considering the situation at the time. But yes, we have never tolerated communalism, hooliganism and we won't tolerate in future either.
RJ: So you are saying that your previous statements were in context to the situations?
YA: Yes, during the situations at the time.
RJ: Some people say that there is a difference between Yogi ji fighting for elections and Yogi ji as CM. He entered politics taking the hard-line Hindutva but now it has changed.
YA: See, poor is poor. Government plans should reach everybody without discrimination. It has been our motive that development is for everybody. Remember, in 2014, PM Modi said 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas'. This is not a slogan, this is a reality and we are proud that we took everything to the ground-level. If we have given 25 lakh houses, all were not for Hindus. Muslim population in UP is 18 percent, but 30-35 percent Muslims have availed the benefits.
RJ: You are saying that 18 percent population is Muslim, but people availing benefits are more.
YA: Yes, it is double. They were poor. They needed benefits and we provided them. We did not provide help because they were Muslims. We defined criteria and whoever fell into that category got the benefits. For us, it is the citizen of the state that matters.
RJ: PM Modi also addressed one important issue in his 15 August speech. It was about population control. What is your view on this?
YA: It is a very important issue and whatever resources we have right, there should be discussions on strengthening its quality. Whatever the development, if you are not able to control the population, it will always be a problem. You will have to keep in mind that development should be balanced and it should be for all. I think population control should be made more effective.
RJ: Is the government thinking on this?
YA: Yes, we will take steps whenever needed.
RJ: So you are discussing this?
YA: Yes, the discussion is still going on.
RJ: Recently, Amit Shah said that to unite the country it is important that Hindi should be declared as the national language. What do you think about this?
YA: Hindi is our official language. Respecting our official language or respecting anything which represents our country is our responsibility. The court can decide that along with English, things should be provided in the local language. Like in Tamil Nadu, people speak Tamil, so English and Tamil both should be provided. The common man should also understand the court proceedings in Tamil. A common man doesn't understand English. It is good if you adopt Hindi also as an official language. If you go to Kerala, a common man knows Malayalam. So if Hindi also comes with English, it will be a good initiative. Bapu also said¦ Hindi desh ki bindi hai. Hindi is our country's beauty. It will be good.
RJ: As many as 50 percent people in the country do not speak Hindi. They speak a different language.
YA: I am saying that for any work within the country, like for court proceedings, promote the local language there so that the common man knows what is happening. If you draft court proceedings in English, how much does the common man understand? How many people understand English? People will have options of Hindi and English. People will have the freedom to choose.
RJ: Many people have opposed this, including Mamata Banerjee and MK Stalin.
YA: Some people have the nature to oppose. Women have been suffering Triple Talaq for ages. The Supreme Court wanted to help them and if the BJP formed a law, but they still oppose this. The whole country stood united with Amit Shah and PM Modi in scrapping provisions of Article 370, but there are some people who just want to oppose. They don't know what they are opposing, but they just want to oppose.
RJ: Will the North and South be divided with this?
YA: If you will promote Tamil in Tamil Nadu and if you give this as an option, you are saying you are not imposing. If we promote Hindi with the local language, it will be great. A Tamil Nadu resident doesn't have the right to work in Delhi? Can they not work in Lucknow, Bhopal or anywhere? If they learn about these languages, they will have multiple options. He/she can work anywhere.
RJ: You mentioned Articles 370 and 35A. Did you expect that the Modi government will take such a step so soon?
YA: There should not be any doubt about Modi ji's work and the way he has fulfilled people's expectations. We implemented around 125 government plans for people. Did anybody imagine that houses will be announced for the poor? People were laughing when the Prime Minister picked a broom for Swachh Bharat mission, but now this is a mass movement. One can talk about electricity connections, LPG connections or any plan which benefits the people like Jeevan Jyoti Beema policy, Jeevan Suraksha Yojana, Atal Pension scheme or PM Mudra Yojana. There are many schemes for farmers. Plans were implemented for women, children, youth, farmers, poor and for everybody. People were waiting for this since Independence. After taking the oath, PM spoke about people's expectations. Articles 370 and 35A are a part of that and I think only Modi ji could have done this.
RJ: Don't you think tension with Pakistan is affecting the foreign investors. They might think that there is always a tension between India and Pakistan, so they shouldn't invest?
YA: No, nothing like that. The world is with India. It is proof of a successful policy when the entire world supports it. The way India has come forward with its international policy is proof of good governance after Independence.
RJ: You talked about NRC a few weeks ago. I want to know who are those infiltrators you were talking about?
YA: Not only Uttar Pradesh, but India was struggling with internal security issues. In previous years, infiltrators entered India and exploited our resources. They are a threat to national security. Most of these infiltrators are from Bangladesh. After it is successfully implemented (in Assam), then it will be implemented in other states.
RJ: You said most infiltrators are from Bangladesh?
YA: Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and from other places as well. We will take action against them.
RJ: One question on Ram Mandir. BJP says mandir hum wahi banayenge, but they are not able to give any date. Suppose the court gives a decision against you, what will you do in that situation?
YA: Decision is taken on the basis of facts and evidence. We are hopeful and we will follow the judgment of the Supreme Court. Earlier also, we followed what the Supreme Court said. It would have been good had the Muslim community taken an initiative to end this when the Supreme Court gave time for mediation, but that did not happen. It wouldn't have happened as people can only move towards a solution when they are thinking positively, but when they are stubborn about this, then only the Supreme Court can take a decision. This will only end after the Supreme Court takes a decision.
RJ: There has been a major crackdown on corruption, to the extent that P Chidambaram is in Tihar, DK Shivkumar is also being taken to task by the ED. Are Mayawati and Akhilesh next?
YA: Both the Centre and the state are not working with the motive of political revenge. If someone has done wrong, they will have to pay the price. If someone has broken the law, misused public money, then they cannot be saved. As I said, if someone is found guilty, there will be appropriate action against them.
RJ: Mayawati has in the recent past supported a few decisions of the government, for example in the case of Kashmir. Is there a back-stage alliance going on?
YA: BJP has no alliance with anybody else. As far as the Kashmir decision is concerned, it is like fulfilling the dream of Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar. It is like fulfilling the dream of Sardar Vallabhai Patel and there can never be a bigger honour to Shyama Prasad Mukherjee than this.
RJ: There are two-three personal things that our viewers want to know about you. Who do you consult before taking any big decision?
YA: We have a Cabinet, there is a group of ministers. Any decision for the betterment of the state is taken in consultation with all ministers.
RJ: What is your relation with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah?
YA: Not on a day-to-day basis, but on bigger occasions like Kumbh Mela, it was Modi ji who reminded me that there is going to be a Kumbh in 2019.
RJ: You've made Ardha Kumbh all the more important by calling it just Kumbh.
YA: See, there is no mention of Ardha in our culture. So, the Prime Minister had brought Kumbh to my attention and had said it is in 2019 and we must do it well. We had one-and-a-half years to prepare for it. He had expressed his desire to take this to the global level. We are also trying to have this included in UNESCO's cultural heritage list. We are also thinking of how to make this event global. We are never able to brand our achievements. So, we've set forth with all of this in mind. It is my good luck that Kumbh began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Ganga pujan and all schemes and programs meant for Kumbh were inaugurated by Modi ji. It was great that Modi ji was also there when the Kumbh concluded where he praised our cleanliness, security and administration. He washed the feet of sanitary workers and set a very big example in front of the entire country.
RJ: As you said, you work for 18-20 hours a day. How do you make time for yourself? What do you do in your free time?
YA: I am a spiritual man. I complete my yogic activities in time along with all my pujas. In addition to this, I also make time for self-study. It makes me understand and know what is happening in the world outside. Along with this, I personally examine the schemes that every department is responsible for.
RJ: Do you like Gorakhpur more or Lucknow?
YA: Gorakhpur, apart from being my spiritual-ground, is also my workplace. Lucknow is the place from where I am being able to serve the people of Uttar Pradesh. Earlier, from Gorakhpur, I was only able to serve a limited number of people, but now from Lucknow I am able to serve all 80 seats of Uttar Pradesh.
RJ: On the one hand you are a Yogi, away from materialistic pleasures, and on the other you are attracted to politics and power. How do you strike a balance between these two opposing forces?
YA: Only a Yogi can balance these two opposing forces. I can fight both these forces as someone who is attracted neither to power and politics nor to the fame associated with it. However, I want to do better in everything I do, better every day. Whenever there are hurdles in anything, I always seek the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah ji. I ask them on how to overcome hurdles to achieve the goal.
Whether it be in the case of farmers, youth or any big decision of the state. For example, Uttar Pradesh needs to become an investment hub. Therefore, I asked Amit Shah ji how to do this. He said create land banks and make policies. Pick-and-choose needs to be stopped because the previous government had done pick-and-choose and failed miserably. The result of this was that we made a policy, we made land banks, got the infrastructure in place and then called the investors. Till now, 40 per cent of the MoUs that we signed in the first investors' summit have been implemented on ground.
I am sure there will be very few examples of investor summits being so successful on ground.
In order to stop diseases such as encephalitis, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and other such schemes were introduced. It was a challenge for us. What was the challenge? The challenge was to create close to 2.6 crore toilets. People were afraid as to how this would happen, but I said it is an opportunity for us. Opportunity in the sense that we will be able to say to the country that we can. Secondly, this will help us be free from many diseases. The entire team came together and the job was done.
RJ: Do you believe in casteism? The common perception is that Brahmins are also angry with you.
YA: What can you do about perceptions? You can't mend mentalities of some people. Some have the wrong mindset and there is not much you can do about it. Our chief secretary is a Brahmin. The officer next in line is also a Brahmin. The chief of revenue department who is on the same level as that of chief secretary is also Brahmin. Additional chief secretary of the state's Home Ministry is also a Brahmin. But we have not kept anybody on the basis of them being Brahmin. Our DGP is Kshatriya. But we have not kept anybody on the basis of being Brahmin or Kshatriya. We have kept them based on their ability.
Secondly, these allegations have not been levelled against me for the first time. When I fought Lok Sabha elections for the first time, even then such allegation were levelled against me. Once opposing parties made this the very basis of their election campaign and fought against me, all of their deposits were gone.
Within Uttar Pradesh, most number of Brahmin children stay in Goraksh Peeth and their education and livelihood is taken care of. So, such allegations keep coming. This is real politics. If such allegations are not levelled, then you are not in politics at all.
RJ: Akshay Kumar had asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi if he enjoys having mangoes. I will not ask such a question, but I'd like to ask, what is your favourite dish?
YA: I like plain, satvik food. Whatever I get. I never demand any type of food. I take whatever I get according to a fixed time. But I don't like or dislike anything.
RJ: Everyone gets a salary at the end of the month. What do you do with your salary?
YA: Most of my money is spent in helping others. But I don't make a show about it, neither should one. There are many who are in need of money. You must have seen that a lot of people come during Janta Darshan, some need fees, some need money for medical needs. If we cannot provide to them from the prism of governance, we can always do it in our personal capacity. I help them in my personal capacity.
RJ: You spent so much time with us. You gave us two days. Thanks a lot.