Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's claim to have fielded weak candidates to eat into BJP's vote share in the Lok Sabha poll in the state has not cut any ice with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, who sees her statement as an "excuse" since the "people are not with them".
"I cannot believe in these types of statements. I do not believe that the Congress has fielded weak candidates anywhere. No party does it. People are not with them. That is why they are making excuses," Yadav told ANI in an exclusive interview.
Priyanka on Wednesday had said in Raebareli that her party had fielded some candidates in UP with an aim to cut into BJP's vote share. "Congress will win on the seats where our candidates are strong. Where our candidates are slightly lightweight, they will cut into BJP's vote share," she told media persons.
When asked about political analysts' claim that the coalition is the 'Team B' of the Congress, Yadav, also former UP chief minister, claimed that there was no difference between the BJP and the grand old party.
"There is no difference between the BJP and the Congress. The Congress wants to benefit the BJP," he said.
"Who taught the central agencies to intimidate Opposition leaders? The BJP has learnt to misuse the Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation and other agencies against leaders in opposition from the Congress," he said.
"The person who filed PILs against Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) and me was present at the nomination of Lucknow Congress candidate," he said.
He also debunked Congress president Rahul Gandhi's claim that BJP controls the SP and the BSP. "No one controls us. We are political parties. It is the SP, BSP and RLD alliance in UP that is poised to give a setback to the ruling party," Yadav said.
He termed SP-BSP-RLD alliance as the glue that is connected to the people on the ground. "Our alliance will stop the bad policies of the BJP."
Exuding confidence that the alliance would bag the maximum number of seats in the state where 80 seats are at stake, Yadav said: "It is one of the reasons that the BJP leaders do not talk about development in their rallies and seek to divert the people's attention."
"The alliances in several states have choices but the BJP does not have any other leader. Our alliance wants to give India a new Prime Minister. My party will decide about the PM when the final seat tally is out," he said, when asked who will be the prime minister if the BJP does not come to power.
Asked if his father and former Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav will be a prime ministerial candidate, Yadav said: "It will be good if Netaji gets the honour (to be the PM) but I feel he is probably not in the prime ministerial race."
When asked about his national ambition, the 45-year-old leader said that he only wants his party to contribute in the new government at the Centre and made it clear that he is focusing at the Assembly elections, which are due in 2022."I want to appeal to the people of UP to give us one more chance to further our programmes which has been stalled," he said.
"However, I want to increase the number of SP's MPs in the Lok Sabha. I want to be among those who want to make a new Prime Minister. I want UP to contribute in the next government formation."
When asked whether he would want her wife Dimple Yadav to be a part of a non-BJP government at the Centre, Yadav said: "I want her to win with a good margin of votes first because Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the DGP of the state want to ensure that she loses."
When asked why he is vehemently critical to Prime Minister Modi while his father is comfortable with him, Yadav said: "Netaji is from a generation when leaders used to respect other leaders irrespective of their party lines. But the behaviour of the BJP leaders towards others is not good."
It is worth mentioning that Mulayam Singh had left all surprised after he sought another term for Prime Minister Modi in February this year. "I wish that PM Modi, you should become the prime minister again," he had said in his intervention in the last sitting of the Lok Sabha.
Talking about the way the nomination of Raj Bahadur Yadav's nomination was rejected in Varanasi, he criticised Returning Officer (RO) Surendra Singh for not giving adequate time to his party candidate and former BSF constable Tej Bahadur Yadav to submit a document.
"If the DM had any objections, he should have raised when he filed his nomination papers the first time. Had he point out the issue then, he would have produced the document timely. I believe the Supreme Court will deliver him justice," he said.
Talking about controversial remarks made by his senior party leader Azam Khan about Jaya Prada, Yadav defended him saying that sometimes even his legitimate remarks are taken wrongly and maintained that he shares good relation with Azam Khan like his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Yadav said: "He speaks directly. Sometimes even his legitimate remarks are seen in a bad light. He is as close to me as he is to Neta ji."
The former Chief Minister, however, declined to comment on the family feud which led to his uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav floating a new party.
"It is difficult to say whether or not we will unite in the future but at least the people want to know who was at fault," he said.