Exclusive: Power distribution in Uttar Pradesh done on religious lines, claims India's power minister

India's bullet train project will link Mumbai to Ahmedabad, with services planned to commence in 2022. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 06, 2017, 12.59 PM (IST) Kartikeya Sharma

Piyush Goyal, Minister of State for Power in the BJP-led central government tells WION's correspondent Kartikeya's Sharma that Uttar Pradesh has demonstrated the worst form of discrimination while giving electricity connections to the people. He alleges that funds from the Deen Dayal Upadhaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (on supply of power) were used for a particular committee.

Q: The campaign has been very tough for all parties in Uttar Pradesh but why did the Prime Minister need to spend 3 days in the constituency?

A: That speaks volumes about his people connect. Instructions had been given to all the senior leaders to support all the candidates in the assembly. He himself said that he would go to every area in his constituency and it made a difference in each area.

Q: Did his campaign make a difference?

A: The fact is that he has been campaigning in every phase. It is part of an entire campaign as it is his constituency.

Q: This election turned very personal. Why did this happen?

A: There wasn’t anything from our side. But some politicians got too hassled and used some words. The PM restricted himself to the issue of development

Q: Though the first part of the campaign was focused on development but in the second part who focus shifted to "shamshan" and "kabristan"?

A: As far as BJP is concerned, we maintain that Uttar Pradesh has lost out several years in the development cycle. We need to restore the lost glory of the state. As far as other issues are concerned they are a composite whole. Law and order is an issue in the state. It is a state which has lost control on law and order. Then corruption too is an issue. In this state, development is also limited to a couple of places where family prevails and even discrimination on the basis of caste and religion seems to have taken place here. We want to change all that. We want development for everyone.

Q: Coming back to the issue of "shamshan" and "kabristan", BJP did pursue the issue?

A: It is an absolute reality. There are figures to substantiate it. It shows that in the last 5 years, huge sums of government money was dedicated to graveyards. No one is denying the use of it but then it should be used for all the communities and should be based on certain population criteria. You cannot have a situation that you pamper one community for the vote bank and that what we want to change in Uttar Pradesh.

Q: Your Home Minister Rajnath Singh did say that Muslims should have been given tickets. What do you say?

A: We are very clear on it. What he perhaps would have meant was that as more and more communities get involved and get associated with BJP, they would get the opportunity to fight on our tickets. Look at Goa. The entire Christian community supported the BJP. We have not received lot of support from the minority community but we still have two Union Ministers who are Muslims. Unfortunately, we cannot get them elected because we don’t receive support from them. If as and when communities get involved with us, then they would get a larger role. We don’t decide candidates on the basis on caste and creed. It is the ability of the candidate to win the election that remains the criteria for us.

Q: In the hindsight, should BJP have projected a candidate for chief minister (CM)? Or the PM's campaign was good enough?

A: It worked in favour of us that we did not put up a chief ministerial candidate. The legislative unit will decide the chief ministerial candidate. We will also be seeing which regions throw up which candidates. People have decidedly voted for the BJP. They have voted for change.

Q: What is the reality of power in Uttar Pradesh and is it correct as the charge was made out that the distribution of power in UP has taken place on religious lines? Is it correct or a myth?

A: I will answer the second part first. It is the truth. This state has demonstrated the worst form of discrimination, that too in giving electricity connection to the people. I’m amazed and this is a heinous crime.

Member of Parliament (MP) from Muradabad Kanwar Sarvesh Singh wrote me a letter saying that district power officials were not giving power connections to everyone and were discriminating on the basis of religion. I immediately marked the letter to the state government. The state government said that no such discrimination is being done. The MP went to the Prime Minister. I set up a high-level committee and they came up with the finding after inspecting eight villages that people were being discriminated on the basis of religion. Villages were being asked for money for connections which they were entitled to.

And clearly, quality defects were too many. Inspectors in Uttar Pradesh have pointed out 8,000 quality defects. We recommended that an FIR be filed against state officials and contractors. But what is shameful is the discrimination which has happened on the lines of religion.

I have also been told that money that has been allocated for the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (on power supply) is selectively being used in certain villages where particular community people reside.

Q: Was this brought to the notice of the prime minister?

A: Yes, this was brought to the notice of the prime minister and we are extremely concerned and once we come to power we will make sure that everyone, irrespective of their religion, gets entitled to a power connection.

In the 12th Five Year plan, Centre had given money for 32 lakh free power connections but the state government could only give 5.5 lakh connections.

Q: What is wrong with Uttar Pradesh when it comes to power infrastructure?

A: When the chief minister (Akhilesh Yadav) and people like Azam Khan make public statements that we are such a good government that we don't take action against power theft, then what do you do. That is there a claim to fame and that is why the state is suffering. That is why honest people are ending up paying more because theft continues. We will bring in feeder segregation in Uttar Pradesh.

Q: Is it correct that public sector power units are underutilised in UP?

A: More so because if you don’t collect power that you don’t produce then you would not be able to run it efficiently. Today the country has a power surplus. You need to procure it and give it to your people. Despite having sufficient power, they don’t procure it. Saifai is the only place where the family clan comes and Saifai is the only place where power is given 24X7.

Q: Who is the adversary for BJP in this election? SP-Congress alliance?

A: Alliance opened the inning with a big bang but it disappeared faster than anything one could imagine.

Q: Are you saying that the Rahul Gandhi-Akhilesh Yadav pairing didn’t work?

A: Whoever has partnered with Congress has suffered in the last three years. The Congress today is, has been and post-elections they will find themselves in a deeper crisis. To my mind the relevance of Congress in the Indian politics is getting over.

Q: Are you coming power?

A: We are coming to power and we could possibly be looking into a two-third majority.

 

In a 3-legged race in Uttar Pradesh, WION's Kartikeya Sharma caught up with the Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines, Piyush Goyal (WION)

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(WION)