Political Interview

Mr Neeraj Shekhar, Samajwadi Party M.P. from Ballia, Uttar Pradesh

Ballia’s Heavyweight

He is confident that Uttar Pradesh under the chief ministership of Mr Akhilesh Yadav will become a dream destination for NRIs to invest in various power and infrastructure projects. Samajwadi Party M.P. from Ballia, Mr Neeraj Shekhar, who is also son of legendary socialist leader and former Prime Minister, late Chandra Shekhar, says Ms Mayawati’s ``misrule’’ had only caused ``miseries’’ to the common man in U.P. But with young Akhilesh in command, he is sure that the state will witness an overall development in the next five years. In a freewheeling interview with India Empire’s Anjay Sinha, Mr Shekhar said it was high time for the senior politicians to take suggestions of young turks with all seriousness.
Being the son of veteran leader late Chandra Shekhar ji has worked to your advantage or disadvantage?
There have been some disadvantages. But I am M.P. today only because of my father. I have been in politics for a long time, but my father never promoted me. I used to accompany him to rallies and other meetings. But he used to tell us that he would not promote his family members in politics. Soon after his death, I contested from his Ballia seat and won by a thumping majority.

Late PM Mr Chandra Shekhar

One thing, which you learnt as a politician from your father…
He always said if you want to understand India, then go to its villages. His doors were open to one and all. He used to meet people even when he was not keeping well. He told me that people come to leaders with a lot of aspirations and they were duty bound to meet them.

Why did you contest on a Samajwadi Party ticket?
Basically we have the same socialist ideology. Netaji (Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav) told me even if I contested from the BJP ticket in the bye-elections, he would support me. That was the greatness of such a tall leader. In fact, Mayawati ji had deployed each and every MLA and minister to campaign against me in Ballia. Netaji told all senior Samajwadi leaders to help me in my campaigning. Even the Left parties supported me.

According to you, why did BSP lose the assembly elections?
It is because of the arrogance of Mayawati ji. There was a total disconnect between her and the people of the state. She relied on a few chosen bureaucrats. Except for parks and memorials, there was no development in the state.

How did Akhilesh make it?
He won because of his hard work. He was committed to his cause. He connected to each and every party worker. He knows at least 50 party workers by name in each and every district. He is accessible to one and all. On the other hand, people could not reach out to either Mayawati or Rahul Gandhi. In fact, Rahul Gandhi used to meet only a select few workers suggested to him by his leaders.

What is the roadmap for Akhilesh Yadav?
Our state has lagged behind on all developmental projects during the past 65 years. So, Akhilesh is all set to make U.P. a happening state. It will be a dream destination for NRIs to invest in different power and infrastructure projects. Investors will not have to go through unnecessary bureaucratic hassles.

Do you plan to hold any special summit for NRIs?
It is too early to comment on this. But we welcome NRIs to invest in our state. Many NRIs have already met the present leadership. We want to take U.P. on the path of development.

Now, people don’t believe in slogans. They believe in action.
Yes. My father used to visit his constituency once in two or three months. But if I do not visit my area in 15 days, people start inquiring about me. They want their M.P. to be with them always. They expect much more from today’s politicians. That’s why I feel all senior leaders, cutting across all party lines, should take up the suggestions of the young turks with all seriousness.

What is your take on the prevailing political climate of the country?
Both the Congress and the BJP are not doing well. There is a lot of scope for the third front. The Congress got the beating in the recent assembly elections. Even its allies are fighting with it. The party has lost its touch with its workers at the grass-root level.

How do you rate the performance of the UPA-II?
The UPA-II has performed very badly. But UPA-I was much better as the Left parties were supporting it. The Left had created many checks and balances.

The regional parties are getting stronger. Why?
The rise of regional parties is only because the national parties failed to address the aspirations of the regional players. See regional parties are doing well in Odisha, Bihar and south. Time has come when regional parties should take the role of the national parties.

Do you see mid-term polls?
I do not see a situation for the mid-term poll. But if it does, our party will get the maximum benefit.

Your take on Dr Manmohan Singh as the PM?
As the PM, he tried his best to give us good governance. But his allies are not allowing him to function freely.

Going down memory lane, how do you rate Chandra Shekhar ji’s six-month Prime ministerial tenure?
When he took over, Babari and Mandal issues were at their peak. He tried to calm down the passion. Late Shekhawat ji used to say that had Chandra Shekhar ji been the PM for a longer period, the Babari issue would have been solved.

Today, corruption is a major issue. How to go about it?
We have to stem this menace from its roots. Each and every citizen has to play a role in this direction. Each citizen should stop paying bribes even for small things like driving license or a water connection. Then, see what change it brings in the society.

Anna ji’s movement is also against corruption…
It started on a good note. But people surrounding Anna ji are working in different directions. This movement has become directionless. Also, it became a political movement against a particular party, which is very bad. Anna ji did not make a single visit to U.P. during the recent elections. But our voters are very mature. And the results are before you..


May 2012

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