LUCKNOW: Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma has said the issue of the state's next CM is already “settled” with the BJP top brass making it clear that the coming assembly elections will be fought under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath.
In an interview with PTI, Sharma accused the opposition of fanning discontent among farmers and shot down the claim that their continuing protest will cost the BJP dearly in western UP, which accounts for over 100 of the state's 403 seats.
He said the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya was not a political issue, but a matter of faith for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The minister was asked if the BJP leadership could look for another personality as chief minister if it returns to power after the 2022 polls.
"This is a settled issue as the central leadership has already made it clear that the party will contest the election under Yogi Adityanath ji to return to power," Sharma, who himself was a strong contender for the post in 2017, said.
On the possible loss of Brahmin votes, he said this was false narrative put out by the rivals and the BJP government has worked for every section of society, without seeing anybody through the lens of caste and creed.
“Efforts to organise Brahmin meets by the opposition are basically meant to say sorry to them for neglecting them during their regime," Sharma, who is considered as a Brahmin face in UP's ruling party, said.
On the induction of Brahmin leader Jitin Prasada in the party, said to have been triggered by the worry over losing the community's support, the minister claimed that the Congress man wanted to join the BJP way back, inspired by the work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Asked if the upcoming polls will be a direct fight between the BJP and the SP or a triangular contest involving Mayawati's BSP as well, Sharma said, “The BJP is winning hands down.”
“In fact, these opposition parties are fighting against themselves to elbow out one another," he claimed.
On the prospects this time of the Congress, led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in UP, he said, "People know very well who stands with them throughout and also about political tourists who visit them when the elections are around the corner."
Asked if Ayodhya will be the fulcrum for his party in the elections, Sharma said, "For the BJP, construction of the Ram Temple was never a poll issue, but a matter of faith.”
“It was the BJP alone which extended support to the Ram temple movement and worked to remove the obstacles,” he said.
“Kalyan Singh ji even resigned,” he said, referring to the then CM's decision to step down after failing to stop the 1992 demolition of the Babri mosque located at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Indirectly, he compared this with the police firing in 1990, when the SP was in power, at “kar sevaks” heading towards the mosque.
“Ram devotees were fired upon during the regime of those who are organising meetings of intellectuals today. So whom will the public support? Those who fired ‘goli' (bullets) on them or those who stood by them as they raised the 'Ram naam kee boli' (chanting Ram's name)?”
He dismissed the possibility of the farmers' agitation over the central laws hurting the BJP.
"These parties have lost elections to us one after the other. Now they will disguise their workers and indulge in protests of different kinds,” he said.
“Now you will see agitations by traders, students and even workers,” he said accusing the opposition leaders of remaining confined to their homes during the past four and a half years."
They will take on “different looks” in an attempt to win the election, he claimed.
“The 'annadata' farmers are the highest priority of the BJP,” he said, adding that people will never accept those who “disguise” themselves as farmers for their vested interest.
Sharma, who holds the secondary and higher education portfolio, said the BJP government has brought a major turnabout in the field of education.
"From the days when the state government was known for issuing tenders for organising mass scale cheating in board examinations, UP is now winning accolades for conducting cheating-free exams and providing subsidised books to students.”
The “tenders for cheating” allegation referred to what Modi had said at a 2017 election rally in Gonda.
“UP which was in 'C' grade in the field of education has moved to 'A' grade," he said.
Asked if he would contest the assembly polls, Sharma said such decisions are taken in the BJP by the party leadership. As disciplined soldiers party members perform the assigned task, he added.