Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath is confident that his state will attain the target of a trillion-dollar economy in next six years, just as he is politically upbeat about his party’s prospects in the forthcoming assembly by-elections to 13 seats. The 47-year-old leader spoke to Shishir Gupta in Lucknow on issues ranging from the economy to law-and-order to the political landscape of the state. Edited excerpts:
You have said you will make Uttar Pradesh a trillion-dollar economy. As of now your state is at best a $250 billion economy. How will you make this huge transition?
We’ve prepared a work plan. The pace at which we were working, it would have taken UP 12 years to become a trillion-dollar economy. We have now increased our economic speed and can achieve the target in six years. But if we take fresh and innovative initiatives, we can achieve our goal easily in five years. For this, we have to identify the sectors like industry and infrastructure for investments. If in next three years, we are successful in getting Rs 25,000-30,000 crore investment, then UP will be a trillion-dollar economy by 2024. We have prepared a road map; now we have to implement it and I am working towards that goal.
You are confident despite an economic slowdown. Making a road map is different from getting investment on ground?
The economic slowdown is global and not limited to India. This is good for us. At the time when there is a global slowdown, we find Indian and foreign investors interested in UP. This is our achievement. We have begun working towards our objective under adverse conditions. When I took charge in March 2017, neither I nor any one from my team had any experience to perform in this field. For us, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been the best mentor and shepherd, who has guided us from time to time towards our economic objectives. It is PM Modi who has guided and inspired us in doing good work for the state. If we walk 10 steps, he goads us to walk 25 more.
Do you talk regularly to the PM and consult him?
Yes, we are in constant consultation with our leader, particularly on issues in which we feel the state leadership does not have requisite experience. In the very beginning I have taken advice and direction from both PM Modi and home minister Amit Shah on how to develop the state. I remember that after I was sworn in, in March 2017, my team including the industrial development minister and principal secretary came to me in September and told me that they wanted the green signal on doing an investor summit in the state based on my advice.
When they presented the proposal, they called it a global investor summit with investment target of Rs 20,000 crore. After hearing the target, I told them that they must be joking by naming it global and aiming at paltry Rs 20,000 crore. I told them that this amount could be raised by only one industrialist if the right effort is made. They countered me by commenting who would like to invest in UP. I told them that the BJP government had completed its first six months, and the perception that we have conveyed through spirited change will ensure that every industrialist or investor will come to UP. I told them to go out hold roadshows and engage with the right people based on our new policies and plans. They went to Delhi and Hyderabad. The response from these two places was positive but they did not get any definitive investment proposals. They came back to me and said that the best target for the summit would be Rs 50,000 crore and not a paisa more. I told them change the name from global to UP investor summit and the target should be nothing less than Rs 2 lakh crore. I also decided to participate in one roadshow and it was decided that the venue would be Mumbai.
At the roadshow, I found that that the country’s biggest industrialists and investors were there and we got proposals worth Rs 2.5 lakh crore in a day. With the Mumbai roadshow as a model, the department held three more shows and I asked PM Modi to inaugurate the summit. The PM smiled and questioned me by saying that the UP government had not even completed one year and said that more time should be taken to host a summit. He laughed at the idea and said that you have to work very hard. I said, I will work hard. We did our first summit on February 21-22, 2018 and got Rs 5 lakh crore worth of proposals. It is the first time that proposals worth Rs 2 lakh crore have already touched ground and being implemented with Rs 65,000 crore proposals already in pipeline and possibly implemented in next three to four months.
Did you face any hurdles in getting proposals, considering the perpetual high political climate in the state?
When we came to power, Korean multi-national Samsung was winding up in the state. I was on the seat for only 15 days when I got this information through a small newspaper clipping. I questioned the bureaucrats, asked them why Samsung was exiting UP. They told me that Samsung had a Rs 3,000 crore proposal to set up a unit in Noida but now they have decided to shift to other states perhaps due to better facilities and incentives. I got angry and asked them why were they taking this news lightly. I told them that for me it was a big event as someone who wanted to invest in UP even during the previous regime is now leaving the state, and we’re doing nothing about it.
When I told them that I wanted to meet Samsung representatives, the bureaucrats were taken aback as they could not fathom why should the UP CM meet a private company head. When they told me that the Samsung chairman was based in South Korea, I directed them to set up my meeting with the India head of the global major. They all came to me in three days and met me. I asked them why Samsung was shifting out of UP. They told me that they were not exiting UP because of the BJP government coming to power but due to the harassment faced at the hands of the previous regime. According to them, they had already taken a decision to leave UP before the BJP government took over reins of power. I told them that they should call the company chairman from South Korea to meet me. The Samsung chairman came, and after the meeting, I directed my team that all problems faced by the company should be resolved in next 15 days.
I also directed that an MoU be signed with the company and due to our efforts the foundation stone of the project was laid in June 2017. The problems did not end there, as vested interests using muscle power wanted the huge work contract for setting up the plant. I told them that all the dadas (enforcers) must be set right in 24 hours or else I will take action against those accountable. The message was made clear to all. The same Samsung has already invested Rs 5,000 crore in UP and is investing another Rs 3,000 crore in the Noida unit. Today, Samsung has the biggest mobile manufacturing facility in the world in Noida to manufacture mobile phones.
Any other examples where the state went out of the way to promote and protect private sector?
Another example was TCS [Tata Consultancy Services] leaving UP. When I came to Lucknow, the company staff was taking out a candle march in fear of retrenchment due to winding up of TCS. I called up the TCS leadership. The main problem of this state was that the chief minister was kept aloof and deliberately shielded from any engagement with the industrialists. The CM post had become an island, where no one was allowed to go.
I asked the TCS leadership the reasons for exit and was told that it was a management decision. I straight away called up company chairman Ratan Tata and urged that his company exiting UP at the time would send wrong signals. I said his company should bring all the issues and concerns on the table for resolution. Ratan Tata’s response was very positive. He told me that after his personal call, he had decided that TCS will remain in Lucknow whatever the cost. Today, TCS is in Lucknow and now opening a huge centre in Noida with 30,000 new jobs.
This was the background to our first investor summit. At the summit, PM Modi announced a UP defence corridor along with another in Tamil Nadu. Even though the UP defence corridor was announced later, but the state has gone ahead with land banks and policies ready. We are doing a defence exposition to showcase UP’s prowess in February 2020. It is due to our investor-friendly policies that Samsung today is the representative of the State. The perception of both India and UP have changed in the world. If India is the best investor destination, then UP leads the ways in states. It is my belief that in the next three to four years, we will get industrial investment of Rs 25,000 to 30,000 crore in the state. Besides, we will invest a similar amount in infrastructure development in the state. I believe that our target of trillion dollar economy will be achieved in next six years as UP has the most fertile land and best water resources in the world.
Linking all other natural advantages with technology will lead to heightened food and dairy production through top-end processing facilities and thus push up the farmer income in the state. I also believe that all the conditions that promote industrial investment are already present in UP now. We have already started the one district, one product scheme under the MSME department to promote traditional industry, which requires minimal investment but tremendous job opportunities. These MSME clusters are already present on ground in the state to attract investment on ground of existing distribution.
We have talked about investment and infrastructure. Where does the vision of tourism growth fit into this?
The current infrastructure upgrade in terms of road and air connectivity is all designed to promote tourism. UP has the best potential for religious tourism. We have Ayodhya, Mathura, Kashi, Prayagraj, Ganga, Yamuna and other religious spots in the state for which we have already prepared a plan. We branded the last Prayagraj Kumbh to show case our event management capabilities with an eye towards promoting tourism. We linked the Deepostav festival with Ayodhya to bring colour and festivity to the temple town. This has led to demands for opening of new hotels in Ayodhya and Prayagraj and people want to invest to reap the tourism dividend. Keeping the tourism opportunities in mind, we have created a Braj Teerth Development Board so that foreigners and Indians spend time and money in western UP rather than Jaipur in Rajasthan. We want tourists to stay for days in Braj for religious and spiritual journey by linking this region with Rangostav programme to celebrate festivals like Janamashtmi. We want to brand Shivratri with Kashi and are doing international promotion for the Buddhist circuit in Varanasi.
Economic growth is linked with infrastructure with emphasis on availability of power. There are reports about shortage of power in western UP.
We have no shortage of power. We are going to double the power production as compared to 2016, just as our consumption has also doubled during the same period. Earlier, the governments in Lucknow would select few districts for adequate power distribution while leaving the entire state in dark. In April 2017, we decided that district headquarters will have 24-hour power, tehsil headquarters were given 20 hours, and rural area was allocated 18 hours of power. Our scheme went off well for two years but now disturbance may be felt as feeders are being changed in many districts of the state. We are demarcating power distribution on the basis of specific use: like agriculture, domestic consumption, and city streetlights. We have been successful in reducing the transmission distributions losses from 36% to 24% through underground cabling. In the past 30 months, 167,000 spots have been electrified with 11 million people given electricity connection either free or basic charges. The disturbance could be on account of both expansion and strengthening of the grid taking place at the same time in UP. The state has never been provided electricity at this rate in the past 20 years and we are committed to the same in future.
You are described as a workaholic chief minister. Is the UP bureaucracy matching you in speed and effort?
Do you think I am single-handedly giving these results? This is team work. If we had not worked, then could we have given 2.5 million houses to people, toilets to 26 million people, electrified 167,000 spots, electricity connections to 10 million people, 150 million rations cards to people. All this has happened due to coordinated efforts of our team.
PM Modi talks about fighting corruption within and outside the government. How much have you succeeded in tackling it in the state?
Anti-corruption efforts depend on the leadership. If the leader is clean, this will impact the entire bureaucracy. But if the leader is corrupt, then how can you expect subordinates to be honest? In my government, if the corrupt do not mend themselves, then they will be taken to task as per law. I have retired or dismissed 600 officials in the past 30 months on this count. I can only give one or two chances to officials to mend their behaviour or else they have to face law.
The key demand of any investor in any state is proper law-and-order. In these times when everyone takes videos of any incident to raise an issue, how much have you been able to control the situation in the state?
Law-and-order in UP is the best in the past decades as there has been not a single communal riot or ransom case in the past 30 months. All festivals were celebrated with fervour without any incident. We have done three big events this year with the Prayagraj Kumbh taking the top spot as more than 240 million pilgrims attended the event. Using artificial intelligence at the command and control centre, we monitored each and every activity at the Kumbh. In 1954, 4 million people attended the Kumbh on Mauni Amavasya and more than 1,000 people lost their lives in the melee when PM Jawaharlal Nehru came to attend the event. The event was so tragic that the police superintendent quit his job and went into sanyas. This time, on the same day, more than 50 million people came but not a thing went out of place. This is called management.
Second, we conducted the 15 Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas in Kashi with more than 7,500 representatives belonging to 76 countries attending the show. Third was the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on 163,000 booths in 80 seats that went to polls in seven phases. During the same time, West Bengal went to polls for 42 seats in 80,000 booths. In UP it was all peaceful, but 53 people lost their lives in West Bengal on account of poll violence with arson and mayhem overtaking the state. This has been done by this government and the same police. We should always praise positive work and not get embroiled only in projecting the negative. These three events have showcased UP capability and potential for holding and managing mega events. Law-and-order of UP is the best in the country and we are committed to peace and security.
What is your assessment of the current political environment of the state in the context of three main opposition parties ?
The results of 2019 Lok Sabha elections with BJP winning 62 seats have shown the mirror to the decimated Opposition. The results have also predicted the future. The entire Opposition knows where it stands now.
Do either of the three opposition parties have the electoral might or support to take on the BJP in future?
If these parties had the strength, then they should have proved in the Lok Sabha elections.
What about the forthcoming Assembly elections in 13 constituencies, largely in western UP?
BJP will win all of the 13 Assembly seats.
Complacency leads to adverse results. Remember Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-polls?
Forget Gorakhpur. It was an event that happened. Kaath ki handiyan baar baar nahin chadti (flukes happen only once). That time has gone. Even if all the three parties join hands, nothing will happen. The people of UP have already answered these parties and this will continue in future.