Beginning 11 February, ballots in state elections will be cast for the first time since demonetisation was announced. In an interview with Catch, the chief of BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit dodged the question on whether the result in UP will be a referendum on this exercise.
Keshav Prasad Maurya also did not give a clear answer to whether the BJP will seek to woo the Yadavs, the main support base of the ruling Samajwadi Party, in view of the infighting between Mulayam Singh Yadav and his Chief Minister son Akhilesh Yadav as well as the recent Supreme Court judgment against campaigning on the basis of caste, religion, creed. Maurya, who has supervised a campaign devoted exclusively to OBCs, only claimed that his party was above caste-based politics.
Excerpts from the conversation:
The chief ministerial candidates of all other major parties in Uttar Pradesh except BJP's are more or less known. With the voting day so near, has the party taken a decision on its CM candidate? Rajnath Singh has not confirmed or denied reports claiming him to be the chosen face.
As chief of the UP unit, all I can say is that every worker in the party is our CM face. The person whom you named is a member of our Parliamentary Board, and taking any decision on this issue is the leadership's prerogative.
The BJP will, based on the strength of its workers, win more than 300 seats and form the government. We will repeat 2014. We have promised to deliver the state from the menace of corruption, gundaraj and uncertainty.
What do you mean by uncertainty?
I mean the combined menace of the SP and the BSP which has taken the state several years back.
Do you think a seven-phase election is perhaps too long and tiresome for political campaigning in UP?
The BJP is ready to face any challenge. The election should be fair, and enough law enforcement force should be deployed everywhere. We will win this election based on the support of our workers.
Polling is just a few weeks away, but the infighting between father and son in the SP has still not been resolved. The BJP has till now followed a non-Yadav OBC formula in the state. Isn't now an opportune moment to approach the Yadav vote bank?
The BJP doesn't fight elections based on caste. We fight on the promise of progress and delivering the poor from poverty, a promise whose symbol is Narendra Modi. This is also the year of Deen Dayal Upadhyay's centenary which we are celebrating as Gareeb Kalyan Varsh.
Those who fight elections based on caste or creed were defeated in 2014, and they will lose as badly if they don't learn from their mistakes.
Will this election be considered a referendum on demonetisation?
Those protesting against demonetisation are supporting black money. The people of UP are watching the moves of all parties carefully and they will teach all those who have opposed note ban an unforgettable lesson.
Is Ram Mandir still an issue?
Ram Mandir is not going to be built in the next 45 days. What we will focus on instead, for this period, is development and progress.