Uma Bharti, India's minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, speaks during an environmental conservation summit . Photograph: (AFP)
India's minister for water affairs speaks to WION on UP elections, Rahul Gandhi, Romeo squad and more
WION: Uttar Pradesh has given Prime Ministers to both BJP and Congress but BJP in this election has failed to nominate a face for the position of the chief minister. Why?
Uma Bharti: We didn’t give a face in 1991 but came to power in UP. We also didn’t give a face in Haryana and Khattar became the chief minister. This was part of a strategy. We weren’t short of faces but decided to do so because of certain reasons.
WION: But BJP did make Modi, Shivraj and Raman Singh faces. They were projected as chief ministers?
Bharti: Yes, we did. We did announce the names but in some places we didn’t.
WION: Why should BJP be voted to power?
Bharti: BJP is the only party which has commitment itself towards work and nation. We have thought and ideology and that is why we should be voted to power.
WION: Dimple Yadav and Priyanka Gandhi attacked the Prime Minister. Priyanka said that demonetisation hurt women?
Bharti: Women have not complained and women are with the Prime Minister. Those who lost black money didn’t say a word and people who were poor had no issues. They believed that the money deposited in the banks would be put to good use.
WION: The Prime Minister is being called an outsider by the Samajwadi Party and the Congress in the UP elections?
Bharti: It shouldn’t be said at all. Sonia Gandhi herself is from Italy. So the Congress doesn’t deserve the right to say anything on this matter. Have they gone into a coma and forgotten that their mother has come from Italy? UP accepted her and people of Rae Bareilly give them lots of votes. Has this been forgotten?
WION: What is your take on "UP ke ladke" as a campaign tag line?
Bharti: What had Mulayum Singh said when he was asked about an incident of crime against women? He said that sometimes boys can make mistakes. So whenever Akhilesh would use the tag line UP ke Ladke it would hurt his image. They should be talking about development.
WION: Is the Congress-SP alliance a formidable combination?
Bharti: No it is not a formidable combination. It is the other way round. Two things have hurt Akhilesh Yadav. First was to expel Mulayum Singh from the party and let me re-emphasise the point that the people of India do not take Rahul Gandhi seriously and anyone who stands besides Rahul Gandhi will also not be taken seriously. Rahul is to be blamed for it.
WION: Why isn’t Rahul Gandhi taken seriously?
Bharti: It is because of the things Rahul Gandhi says and things he does. Suit Boot ka chor, displaying his torn kurta, tearing of Manmohan Singh’s cabinet decision are a couple of examples. He was your Prime Minister. He should have spoken to the Prime Minister in private if he felt that the decision was wrong. Talking about factory for potatoes or sleeping in the Parliament or saying things which don’t make sense and when an answer is available then to either boycott the Parliament or leave the House without listening has affected his stature. Despite the fact that Sonia Gandhi is from Italy is taken more seriously, she comes across as a serious person. But in the case of Rahul Gandhi, whoever stands next to him will come across as a political lightweight.
WION: In UP your party has spoken about the Romeo squad. Is it correct?
Bharti: This depends on the present circumstances. Those who misbehave with women also violate the law. Girl also have the right to self defence.
WION: You have been a chief minister. If everyone takes law and order in their own hands then what will happen?
Bharti: If someone misbehaves with your sister then what will you do? Wouldn’t you give him a tight slap? These are natural responses. Put yourself in that position.