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Development Transcends Caste Barriers, Says Tanuj Punia as He Enters Lok Sabha Fray from Barabanki

In an exclusive interview with News18, the IITian, who once aspired to be an IAS officer, says that good politics will win over divisive lines of casteism and communalism.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:May 1, 2019, 12:05 PM IST
Development Transcends Caste Barriers, Says Tanuj Punia as He Enters Lok Sabha Fray from Barabanki
Tanuj Punia with farmers in Barabanki.

New Delhi: Having learnt from his father that the only way to work for people is through politics, 34-year-old Tanuj Punia is making his political debut in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls from Barabanki constituency. Fighting on Congress ticket, Punia, son of senior Congress leader PL Punia, is fielded against Samajwadi Party’s Sagar Rawat and BJP’s Upendra Singh.

In an exclusive interview with News18, the IITian, who once aspired to be an IAS officer, says that good politics will win over divisive lines of casteism and communalism.

Who is your biggest opponent in this fight– BJP or SP candidate?

Both are doing well but we are ahead of them. I am confident that people will vote for us. The problem with the two is that they are spreading rumors about us by saying that we don’t have a base vote and that no caste is backing us. Their politics is dividing the public on caste and communal lines. Our issue is development. This election we hear that Yadav will vote for SP and because of the coalition, the chamaars will also vote for them. The country has provisions in the constitution for the protection of Dalits and the oppressed. Yet they are playing divisive politics. On the other hand, the BJP candidate is telling people that he is banking on Modi. He thinks he doesn’t have to go anywhere because Modi will get him votes.

How is your campaign different?

We are talking about health education. We are getting votes from everyone, the SC, liberal Brahmins and Thakurs, because of the developmental work done during the UPA tenure by my father. He started the embankment of river Ghagra. There used to be floods every year but things were controlled after the embankment. My father got a trauma center despite opposition from his own party members who thought there is one in Lucknow already. Through his perseverance and hard work he got it built but in in 2014 it was locked. So UPA government did not get credit. There is infrastructure in place yet it is closed. I will get it working after winning.

What are the main issues of your constituency?

The main problem of Barabanki is that there is no industry. There used to be a sugar and soot mill, which was the main source of employment here. This was built at the time of Indira Gandhi but in the past 12 years all of them were shut down. In 2017, Yogi Adityantah promised that soon smoke will rise from the chimneys. People are leaving this place because of lack of employment.

In Barabanki, 85% people part of agriculture-related activities. We need agriculture based industry, food parks and all. 99% farmers here grow peppermint.

What are your views on NYAY – though opposition has criticized it?

Some think it is a freebie, but it will help in building the rural economy. This is going to bring in some money and boost the rural economy, which is true to Mahatma Gandhi’s vision. He said that the only way to become a world power is by empowering India’s villages.

Finally Priyanka Gandhi has entered politics …

This was long overdue. We wanted to see her in active politics and she has finally taken the plunge. Her entry is late but at the right time. When India is in crisis we need her. The BJP is attacking every institution, CBI, RBI. In this scenario, she is needed. Also Rahul Gandhi can’t do everything on his own, he needs Priyanka. Just like Modi can’t do anything on his own, he needs Amit Shah.

The campaigns of BJP are about Pakistan and Balakot. How are you countering that narrative?

They are selling their muscular patriotism. There is no point involving army in politics. During Manmohan Singh’s tenure, there were strikes but he never went talking about it. People are buying this narrative and we are countering it on ground saying army and politics don’t depend one each other. Army is working against all odds and now this politicisation is unfortunate. People are believing that it was Modi who dropped the bomb there. Similarly, they believe it was him and not the scientists who achieved the Mission Shakti. All the sophistication was acquired over two decades and then he went on TV announcing ‘see what I did.’

Every election is important but how important are these elections?

If the BJP wins, first of all they are not winning, but if they do it is going to be unfortunate. Expect threats to democracy and changes in constitution that this might be out last election. Maybe there will be no elections if they come to power.

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| Edited by: Sana Fazili
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