"Politics in Uttar Pradesh today is somewhat strange," says Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, in apparent justification of his mega-sized Ministry. The debate about the "so-called demerits of the Ministry", he said, was confined to "certain classes of people and the masses are not bothered by it." Excerpts from an interview the Chief Minister gave Venkitesh Ramakrishnan in Lucknow:
When MLAs crossed over to support your Government, you said that you had not engineered defections and that they came with "affection". Judging from the way these MLAs have been made Ministers, it does not appear to have been affection alone that motivated them.
I have no hesitation in reiterating that the MLAs came closer to the BJP with affection and were essentially motivated by a desire to provide political stability and a stable government. Everything that this Government does is aimed to fulfil these objectives. There was no question of rewarding anybody or of offering enticements to engineer defection.
All the MLAs who crossed over became Ministers. Obviously there was pressure.
Politics in Uttar Pradesh today is somewhat strange. When the BSP withdrew support to my Government, I had only two options. One was to accept defeat and resign, paving the way for instability and elections. The second option was to appeal to MLAs to provide a stable government. A section of MLAs belonging to the Congress(I), the BSP and the Janata Dal responded to my appeal. There was no pressure from any individual or party, there were no conditions put, to offer support. But on my part I thought it fit to include all the MLAs in the Government.
Notwithstanding criticism in certain quarters about the size of the Ministry, I feel that in the long run it will help the State's development. A State as big as Uttar Pradesh, with 83 districts, needs a large Ministry to take care of its development concerns. Each Minister will take personal care of various districts. The masses understand this. That is why the debate about the so-called demerits of the Ministry is confined to certain classes. The masses are definitely not bothered by it.
There is also the charge that people with criminal records have been included in the Ministry.
I don't understand this. They have repeatedly won elections, represented the people in the Assembly and discharged their responsibilities. All these years nobody raised any hue and cry about them. But when they decide to support the BJP and its Government, they become notorious criminals. Many of these people were in parties like the Congress in 1993 and were MLAs. They supported the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Government, and parties such as the Samajwadi Party and the BSP, which were part of the coalition, saw no fault in them. Our party has made it clear that if any Minister in the Government is freshly charge-sheeted, action will be taken against that person. I suppose that is a categorical assertion of our commitment to probity in public life.
There is a feeling even within the BJP that the developments related to the survival of your Government, including the creation of the Ministry, have shattered the BJP's claim of being morally upright.
I do not know why leaders of other parties blame the BJP if they cannot hold their flock together. How can the BJP take the responsibility if other parties break? It is not our job to keep them united. As for the BJP's image being affected, I think nothing of that sort has happened. In fact, the developments in U.P. emphasise the fact that the BJP is no more an untouchable. The BJP has become acceptable.
Sections within the BJP fear that you are trying to reduce their influence in the party and Government with the help of the new allies.
All this is rumour-mongering. There are no groups within the BJP. We will lead the Government unitedly, and once our development programmes show results, the critics will fall silent. And politically our opponents will get further marginalised.