Syed Khaled Shahbaaz
Veteran journalist and former Parliamentarian Shahid Siddiqui, who did a comeback to active politics by joining RLD following a hiatus of seven years, talks about farmer agitation, Muslim impact on UP politics and how an alliance of various parties could be the sole challenger to BJP in the Uttar Pradesh elections next year.
At a time when ‘good governance’ is a far-fetched dream in Uttar Pradesh, parties in the opposition are counting on uniting fronts to beat the bigger evil– communalism. In conversation with this journalist, Shahid Siddiqui known for being vocal and outspoken on burning issues believes Uttar Pradesh will see better days after the 2022 elections, especially as BJP is losing its grip over the state over myriad issues that do not cease to snowball.
“We will remove Yogi Adityanath from the post of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and displace the Bharatiya Janata Party from the ruling post,” said the Muslim face of Rashtria Lok Dal Dr Shahid Siddiqui.
Shahid Siddiqui who joined the RLD a fortnight after Ajit Singh’s demise, said Ajit Singh wanted him to be part of his party. When he met his son for condolences, he too said the same thing. “I accepted his invitation,” he said.
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) was founded by veteran politician Ajit Singh, son of the former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh who also founded Lok Dal.
Dr Siddiqui says, “The primary reason to join RLD is to make secular forces more formidable, prevent division of votes and to defeat the communal forces. After the alliance of Samajwadi Party and Lok Dal, I think this is very much possible, he says adding that Lok Dal has always been the largest political party in support of farmers, at least in northern India.”
The party has a lone MLA in Rajasthan and there’s none in Lok Sabha.
For the next elections in India’s most populous state, RLD is counting on its alliance, the party’s ‘secular’ image, and the support amassed from the Kisan movement. “The BJP couldn’t live up to the expectations of people who voted it to power, including farmers. It blatantly ignored their concerns and protests regarding the ‘dark laws’. The farmers have realized the slipup in leaving Lok Dal for BJP. They have retracted their support to the BJP. They do not want BJP or sickening communal forces to lead,” he said.
Siddiqui said that the Muslims are of the idea of bolstering secular forces as, “it is the only way to defeat the opposition.”
He is confident that like-minded parties will be formidable enough to displace the BJP in 2022 or as he put it, “These parties (SP, BSP and Congress) have similar ideologies, only their leaders are different.”
He said, “People are angry at the BJP for the way it mishandled the Covid situation, the floating dead bodies in Ganga river, the increase in petrol prices and increasing unemployment. People were seen struggling to find hospital or burial space for their relatives.”
When asked if Mamata Bannerjee was a suitable candidate as the next Prime Minister of India, Dr Siddiqui said it was too early to talk about it.
On how the ongoing reported rift between Prime Minister Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath will impact the State politics, he said “Both Modi and Amit Shah have realized how infamous Yogi has become. But they can neither expel him nor withstand his annoyances. Modi and Yogi have set aside their differences at the behest of RSS,” he said.
In his words, “Uttar Pradesh will see better days with the newly formed alliance as people now know their enemy.”
Syed Khaled Shahbaaz is a Hyderabad-based journalist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org