Former Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav. Photograph: (AFP)
Sudhir Chaudhary interviews Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav during the all-important Uttar Pradesh election
This interview has been translated from the original Hindi, and lightly edited for length:
By Sudhir Chaudhary
Sudhir Chaudhary: If you believe that "kaam bolta hai" ("your work speaks for itself") and you will form a government, what was the point of a coalition with Congress? This shows your weakness...
Akhilesh Yadav: Just to eradicate confusion about whether Samajwadi Party (SP) will form a government or not, this coalition was done. And I can say that both parties in the coalition government will win the election. If I contested alone, I would have won 200-250 seats, but now the coalition government will win around 300 seats.
Sudhir: Why are you being greedy for 300 seats? 250 is enough for you. I ask because, as I said, you and your party didn't have faith in yourself to win elections...
Akhilesh: I did this so that the confusion can be eradicated, and now nobody will have confusion in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Whether we will win or not, the way Uttar Pradesh experienced the first phase election now it is confirmed - SP and Congress will win the elections.
Sudhir: Congress party today is just a small party, they won only 44 seats in Lok Sabha elections and they have just seven per cent vote share in UP, and you have given 105 seats to this party. This is an example that shows you are either confused or not sure about your victory.
Akhilesh: Politics is a big game, but if you want good friendship you need to have heart. I would have bargained with Congress, but I tried. That friendship should be strong.
Sudhir: Who is more of a miser among you?
Akhilesh: I will not call this miser, we both got equal share. At least we established a strong bond.
Sudhir: But do you think Rahul and you can be good friends? The only one common thing you share is that you both are in politics.
Akhilesh: I say its a youth coalition, coming together as a new idea and new development in UP, at least Rahul thinks UP should change its motto towards development.
Sudhir: So what do you think how Rahul Gandhi's opinion changed suddenly about you?
Akhilesh: Yes there was a motto against me, but that motto can be changed. 27 years of social well-being, It happened in the past, I don't want to consider that. And for long term friendships, we need to move ahead.
Sudhir: See this report...what Rahul said about you...
Akhilesh: These lines were said in absence of a coalition government, he (Rahul) said that Akhilesh failed, but now I believe I will pass.
Sudhir: Who has a bigger role in coalition government during a press conference? Rahul's body language was as if he was your elder brother...do you agree?
Akhilesh: In politics there are no such terms like junior or senior. In coming press conferences there will be no such attitude between us. Both are equal and we need to consider them as a national party, since Independence many times they formed governments. We accept the fact.
Sudhir: So you were waiting for the moment when Congress would be weakest, and you will adopt them.
Akhilesh: You never know when and what situation comes up, and sometimes situations lead to conclusions. So maybe Congress and Samajwadi Party wanted a coalition, so it happened in UP.
Sudhir: A viral joke going around now is: "Couples either come from heaven or form due to fear of Modi."
Akhilesh: I was listening to BJP candidates and it seems they are more afraid. And I think if blood pressure due to fear...it's of BJP. My blood pressure is still normal. It's just phase-1 in Uttar Pradesh. The majority of voters didn't vote yet, so we are not afraid of any party. This coalition is of youth and new development goals.
Sudhir: BJP thinks that this duo is over-aged, they call it ''youth" but they are actually are over age.
Akhilesh: I have met several politicians who are 75-85. Still, they call themselves "youth". It hardly matters whatever is our age. But those commenting on this, at least we are younger than them.
Sudhir: Don't you think 105 seats is a lot and you wasted this amount of seats? If you had contested alone or would have contested with someone else then maybe you could win in a better way.
Akhilesh: Now I don't think this way...whether it's a loss or gain, but now will look forward, and will contest responsibly with all our party candidates.
Sudhir: There was a confusion between you and Rahul about who will contest from Amethi, because Congress is the winning party from that constituency. Are you ready to compromise with him on this?
Akhilesh: I tried my best to give them seats from different constituencies from wherever they can win...still Samajwadi Party is contesting from those constituencies.
Sudhir: Like you have your MLA Prajapati who is contesting from Amethi?
Akhilesh: Prajapati is contesting from Amethi. Rakesh, the second sitting MLA, is also contesting elections. In fact, we have Devendraji who is contesting from Rae Bareli. Manoj Pandey is also contesting. I feel that during coalition governments, someone or the other has to face the consequences.
Sudhir: Clearly you feel Congress will fail in key constituencies, so Samajwadi Party is contesting from those constituencies.
Akhilesh: They removed some candidates, we removed some candidates. The picture will be clearer soon.
Sudhir: How is your experience with Rahul Gandhi till now? I was looking through the pictures and videos and while you both were contesting there were electric wires you had to wade through during a rally....
Akhilesh: We came across wires and poles, but at least we were safe and sometimes you need to follow the route your worker's decide...and it's good to visit such localities and it's a matter of experience for politicians.
Sudhir: What you think Rahul Gandhi will learn from you in this election?
Akhilesh: I will not teach him anything, but as politicians, we move ahead as situations come up, events take place, this makes a politician an experienced person.
Sudhir: Let's assume you win this election and everything goes well. So in 2019, will you again contest again with Rahul?
Akhilesh: Not yet planned for 2019, but after winning this election situation will change. And what situation will be there in 2019, we will see.
Sudhir: You are young. If you win the election for the second time and get a majority, you will establish yourself as a young national leader, and many people assume that this election is important for 2019, and it is a possibility that your name will come up for the PM candidature.
Akhilesh: I don't dream very big, my dream is limited only to Uttar Pradesh. If people will give me a chance I will work. This led to Lucknow expressway, and want to extend it to Gazipur and Baliya. As soon as possible this work will get done. We will set market and industries near the expressway, so that skill development for youth and employment can be achieved. Villages should get 24x7 electricity, that's my big dream. Who will stay in Lucknow. I'll last longer than those who stay in Delhi....
Sudhir: It also means Rahul Gandhi should not feel insecure, and if the situation arrives, you will not create any trouble for him. You will stay happy here in Lucknow...
Akhilesh: Like I said I don't dream big, at least I believe whosoever stays away from Delhi, lasts longer and will always be happy...I am not in a rush to move to Delhi.
Sudhir: But it's a dream for Congress.
Akhilesh: If Congress has a dream they need to take a responsible decision because it's a big dream to achieve.
Sudhir: I asked this because once Netaji (Mulayam Singh) almost reached there. But some people didn't let him become the PM, so it's a possibility that his son might become....
Akhilesh: Right now he is a politician, and I believe after this election Netaji will be proud, and right now my priority is that 20-25 days of election is left. Samajwadi should win with a majority, and after that what decision we should take will be considered later...
Sudhir: Who is your competitor?
Akhilesh: I can say that Samajwadi Party is heading, we are cyclists, we balance our handle and go with a good speed. And we do not consider who is behind us...
Sudhir: Mulayam Singh never favoured you for this coalition, but still you did it...he might have felt bad.
Akhilesh: I tried to be under Netaji, and coalition was the need of the hour, that's why it happened, so that confusion persists.
Sudhir: Till now Mulayam Singh hasn't supported you on this...
Akhilesh: For whosoever he might contest they are part of Samajwadi Party only.
Sudhir: But he is only supporting Shiv Pal and not supporting anyone.
Akhilesh: We went to Jaswant Nagar, Bhartana, Lucknow, and I feel with whomsoever he went they all are Samajawadi candidates. He is also saying SP should win. So this is a blessing for the whole party.
Sudhir: What kind of coalition is this where Netaji is not active, Sonia Gandhi is not active, Priyanka is not active? It seems everything is totally upon your shoulders...
Akhilesh: See how much they trust us that this duo will change UP politics.
Sudhir: What have you done till now regarding Netaji's support? Even if you win the election without his support, what's the whole point of it?
Akhilesh: There is a lot of time in this...But nobody wants Netaji to be disappointed.
Sudhir: But he is...
Akhilesh: I feel he is supporting the party, and wherever he is going, he is in favour of the party
Sudhir: It's been a long time, still this question arises: when there was a dispute going on in your family, many people used to say it was planned. "Netaji wants to make his son an undisputed leader, and the Samajwadi symbol that is the cycle should go in your favour and that's why it was done". I ask that you answer honestly, was it planned?
Akhilesh: What was my situation nobody will know .. and if I talk about people's perception, family drama or planned, everything is wrong as people were angry. But the majority of the party is in my favour.
Sudhir: Though we belong to that country where Shrawan Kumar was born, so for any son it is difficult to go against his father ...hardly matters whether it is for the party's sake. As a son, how difficult was it for you to go against your father?
Akhilesh: Netaji and party members wanted the party to do well and move ahead towards progress, and according to the situation at that time, my decision was right. But it was for party's sake. If we form a government, Netaji will be very happy.
Sudhir: I still remember it was the night of December 31, an occasion people usually celebrate. For you, how was it?
Akhilesh: I think it's not a topic for discussion...maybe after elections we can discuss it, because keeping everything aside we want support from people. We should get a chance...
Sudhir: Any person who would be in your situation, who is chief minister and doesn't know whether he will continue or not, will do lots of planning. Maybe you are planning for UP, but your wife might be busy deciding which packer and mover should be booked, where to shift next time. Have you planned where you will shift to after this?
Akhilesh: My party members know that I don't have much with me. Even if the situation arises I don't need any packer and mover to relocate. And I know people will support Samajwadi Party, and you will see me here again after March 11. I am thinking what else I should bring here after March 11.
Sudhir: We build highways...you made us count your achievements, but what about law and order? And still, women are afraid to go out alone in UP. Maybe you deny the fact but Uttar Pradesh is on top in crime, you failed in that aspect...
Akhilesh: Anyone accusing me should at least bring reports or facts containing data about each state, not talk about incidents. They should also think and consider other states where incidents also happen. We have worked for law and order. For example, we have given 100 number service, the opposition doesn't have goals for development. This is a sign of failure.
Sudhir: Can you swear that women are safe in UP?
Akhilesh: We are trying to improve the situation. The police should work effectively, this goal was given to us...
Sudhir: Jungle raj...complete lawlessness...rule of the gun are used for UP NCRB data. At 12.7, UP is more notorious than Bihar.
Akhilesh: I am saying you should consider stats of different states.It should be per lakh (per 100,000).
Sudhir: Yadav title is dominating the UP services.
Akhilesh: This is old news...report was sent to the governor regarding this. If you say why mostly people dying are Yadavs?
Sudhir: On national perspective Uttar Pradesh lags behind many states including Rajasthan, Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand. In GDP UP also lags behind.....
Akhilesh: Mostly awards are won by Uttar Pradesh, including IT sector, forest cover, Guinness Book of World Record for tree plantation. Nutrition mission run by SP. We are No-1 in sugarcane plantation and sugar manufacturing, top in potato production. We have made India's largest expressway...
Sudhir: But when rape happens on an expressway that's an issue...
Akhilesh: We have police check-points every 30 kilometres on the expressway...you can take it on record
Sudhir: Why does the media love you so much...
Akhilesh: I don't own a share, and I guess you understand better how channels run...incidents in UP make it to "breaking news", but in other states it does not...
Sudhir: What will you change if you become CM again?
Akhilesh: If SP forms the government, UP will be on top in every sector, and will create skill development centres, will create mandi's, we have allotted land to Baba Ramdev. I will support whoever will come here in food processing...
Sudhir: Let's talk about your opposition. They say you will not form the government...
Akhilesh: They are very disappointed because in the first phase they didn't have major support of the people, and they know the truth and voters too know the truth. That's why they are accusing us. They should first talk about their work...
Sudhir: Do you think this election totally depends upon demonitisation?
Akhilesh: People vote in every election. During Lok Sabha elections, people considered central goals. We got less seats because BJP got BSP support, and also many young voters went with the BJP keeping in mind that government will make progress in many issues. Demonitisation was a desperate move because people faced challenges.
Sudhir: Will demonitisation help?
Akhilesh: Peole should know and understand what corruption means. Money is not judged by colour, it's just transactions which are black, and people who faced challenges will again stand in line and will vote against BJP.
Sudhir: What is brand Akhilesh? People say it's your golden period.
Akhilesh: I'm confident that if Samajwadi Party will experience a golden period, we will win.
Sudhir: What will be the effect on presidential election due to this election?
Akhilesh: UP is the largest state, the most populous state. I think we will have an important vote in the presidential elections.
Sudhir: Do you have any candidate for presidential elections?
Akhilesh: We will think after March 11...
Sudhir: How do you feel when your brother's picture gets published in newspapers, driving a five crore ($740,000) car.
Akhilesh: He is doing a business, and if he is earning well and buying a car, it hardly matters to us. It's not affecting the ethics of the Samajwadi Party. We are moving ahead now and giving smartphones, 1.4 lakhs (140,000) registrations have been done...
Sudhir: Rahul and you both have been called "Sultan" and "Tipu", respectively: Would you like to comment on it?
Akhilesh: Our duo will work together towards progress and will bring in new change and both of us will stand together...