"How can I run a government with a noose around my neck and chains on my hands and feet?" asked Kalyan Singh at one stage of the conflict between the BJP and the BSP over the choice of the Speaker of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. He announced at that time that he would rather not become Chief Minister than succumb to unjust demands and conditions put forward by the BSP. But by September 21 the coalition partners had settled their differences and Kalyan Singh became Chief Minister. On the eve of the transfer of Chief Ministership, Kalyan Singh had appeared confident that the problems of the coalition were over and that the BJP and the BSP would work together. However, within a week of his taking over, the BSP began its criticism of Kalyan Singh. Excerpts from an interview that Kalyan Singh gave Venkitesh Ramakrishnan before the swearing-in ceremony in Lucknow.
Throughout the debate on the choice of a Speaker, it was clear that the BSP's problem was you. How do you see the situation at this point?
The BSP leadership has made it clear that the controversy stemmed from some misunderstandings. These have been cleared. Mayawati has also said so. The partners will work together to address the problems of the people and boost the State's development.What are your priorities?
There are many areas that need attention. I will give priority to maintenaning law and order and curbing corruption in the administration. The benefits of welfare schemes should reach deserving people.
During Mayawati's six-month rule, you drew attention to what you said was the misuse of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and to corruption in the administration. You said that the law and order situation could not be assessed merely in terms of statistics. How will you address these problems?
Governance is a continuous process where actions are reviewed constantly in order that mistakes are corrected and positive measures strengthened. I will look into all the aspects, initiate consultations and adopt the best possible stance in a given situation.
I cannot go into the details now. But you will see the BJP-BSP Government improving the lives of the people.
But action on some of the problems identified by you could create problems in the coalition. For instance, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The BSP is of the view that there has been no misuse of the Act. There are reports that the settlement on the Speaker issue involved a BJP commitment that it will not reverse the steps taken by the Mayawati Government on the Act.
I can assure you that there will be no problems in the coalition. That does not mean that the partners agree on everything. But differences, wherever they arise, will be sorted out. The partners will be guided by the fundamental objective of the coalition: providing a terror-free society and welfare to the poor.
Will not the court order in the Babri Masjid demolition case create problems for you?
I will not comment on this since the matter is in court.
But questions have been raised against your personal conduct. When Laloo Prasad Yadav was charge-sheeted, the BJP demanded his resignation. You are also charge-sheeted in a criminal case.
How can you compare corruption cases with a popular movement like the Ayodhya agitation? The Ram mandir movement was essentially a symbol of Hindu prestige and all the positive values that go along with it. I do not see anything criminal about it. For me, it is a matter of pride that I was associated with it.
Will you now start construction of the Ram mandir at the site of the Babri Masjid?
I do not think that the State Government has the powers to do things like that. The construction of the Ram mandir will be completed only when a BJP Government comes to power at the Centre.