We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” – Oscar Wilde. The story of today’s guest not just exemplifies Wilde’s quote but also illustrates the functionality of aspiration, breaking the socio-economic shackles from an Indian set up. Mr Rajeev Rai a global educationalist, entrepreneur, the national secretary of Samajwadi Party and the media face of SP to the nation has risen from the dusky alleys of Balia through sheer determination, dint and empathy to create a better world. Why and What we read through the conversation ? Well we through this candid chat with Mr Rai we will try to understand in the lingo we comprehend about the rural landscape of India, its opportunities and challenges. How has his experience in transcending the roads of UP to becoming the poster of his alma mater in Bangalore to creating his own chain of educational institutes to expanding his venture globally and training educational professionals all over the world. How does he manages the key stakeholders involved and what are his KPIs. His sojourn in politics, his expectations being a part of the system that he struggled his way out. Does it always take a bag full of unaccounted money and big fat cheques to make it large in Indian politics and what is the enigma of the modernised, forward thinking, processive Brand Akhilesh and the huge popularity in the hinterlands of UP of “Tipu Bhaiya” And Yes for the political bug inside all of you, well we promise to bring out some exclusive political content from Mr Rai without being at all political throughout the conversation !

Que : A village lad with a mediocre childhood, a struggled teenage – How did politics happened to you and what eventually led you to set up an educational empire. Who were your inspiration throughout the journey ?

Ans: I come from the district of Balia of the most underdeveloped areas UP during that time. As a child, I have seen poverty from very close quarters however least has it deterred by spirit of making something impactful in life. The fight against the odds continued and the struggled teenage made me realise the fact that there is no free lunch in the world. So decided to pursue my technical education from Bangalore in a time when people in my village were confused whether Bangalore is state or Karnataka is, just to give you an idea how alienated things were to us back then. Once I joined my course, I took all the efforts and hardships on my stride and topped across all the semesters thereby going to join my college as a professor. I became the young dean of my college and then starting my own venture. From there on, there was no looking back professionally. What keeps me going ? Empathy. Having seen poverty, struggle and backwardness from closed quarters – its been an objective of me and my entire team to create a world better for them in some way or the other. On venturing into politics, I have fortunately been always fondly seen by the greats of Shri Janeshwar Mishra as someone who have achieved things in life without any hacks and was always of the opinion of me stepping into the system to make the impact of the work I am doing in the field of education wider. However the penny drop moment came for me to be deeply engrossed in politics was the vision and passion of Shri Akhilesh Yadav ji, my party’s national president now and an energetic Samajwadi youth worker then. His ideas for UP was in synergy with that of me and thus I believed this is an interface through which I can create a Rajeev Rai from millions of households in UP which at one of time was devoid of basic amenities in life.

Que : Coming from a rural backdrop who has seen poverty from close quarters, how do you see the growing gulf between India and Bharat ?

Ans : 649,481 villages are there in India and each village is unique in its challenges and the opportunities they present. Thus its highly imperative for both policy makers and implementors to be as localised as it can be with the policies and at the same time strike a perfect balance with standardised global best practices. Apart from this there is another major problem in the allocation of our budget for rural works which is divided into primarily two segments : Planned and Non Planned. The planned segment of the budget has all the bases covered including the allocation of funds, timeline and methods for implementation. However in case of non-planned segments of Budget which are mostly complementary to the allocations and schemes of the planned items, there exists only directives to State Governments without any structure. Here the synergy between the two govts plays a pivotal role and as you know the highly competitive political landscape we are in two, if parties of two different ideologies govern state and centre they and the schemes land up being out of phase in many cases. As I can speak of the duration between 2012-17 many initiatives and schemes of the then SP Government has been stalled by both UPA and NDA governments.

Que : What are the major challenges that you see is hindering Uttar Pradesh’s transformation ?

Ans : Uttar Pradesh presents itself as an unique contour in India’s development map. The challenges we face here in UP can’t be masked into one basket. The diversity of the state is such that each area needs special attention and unique solutioning and thus the “One District One Product” plan that we proposed in the run up to 2017 polls comes into play and probably the most rationale and pragmatic solution catering to UP as a whole. Apart from this, if we try to paint the major socio-economical problems of UP, according to me Mass Migration, Unplanned & Under Payed Agriculture practices and depilated healthcare ecosystem of the state. As Shri Akhilesh Yadav always says “ Double the roads and triple the economy” Thus a well connected network of roads crisscrossing the state is extremely important, out of which a majority of which has already been done by the SP government however sadly the expansion plans have all been at standstill by 2017.

Que : As you mentioned about Akhilesh Yadav, who is seen by a wide segment of the people out of UP as a modern thinking liberal politician what all have been the major milestones of the government that he ran for five years ?

Ans : I will answer this question from two perspective one as a citizen of this state and who is extremely passionate about it and the other as the spokesperson of SP.

As a common UP man, in 2012 when a party came with absolute majority after years we saw a young tech-savvy guy in his 30s who has seen the struggles of village, read in national institutes of repute and global universities. Finally the entire UP felt, the government is working with vision and a plan at hand. Be it electricity, be it the connectivity of the district headquarters to the state capital or be it bringing in HCL IT city in Lucknow or be giving laptops to the students of the state in a mass scale – all these decisions were ahead of its time and created a chain of positive developments along with. None of these flagship decisions of the Akhilesh Yadav Government were taken keeping in 2017 polls in mind rather each of these decisions were taken in the direction of building UP as a fiscally and Socio-Politically rich state.

From a Party spokesperson’s point of view : Return on Investment is a key concept in business and enterprises however in Indian polity it is missing. Our voters generally don’t ask for the return they get out of their votes. I can proudly say that each and every promises made by us in the run up to 2012 campaign was fulfilled by 2017 and not only that many of the Govt’s big ticket achievements like that of the Metro, big push to connectivity on roads, healthcare and government redressal were in fact not present on the manifestos. They all have been the extra work that the Akhilesh Yadav Government has accomplished.

Que : Your passionate answer to the last question brings me to the next question, Kaam Bolta Hei is an exciting campaign theme at least from a marketing student’s perspective that your party came up with and you have a young empowered face of it as Akhilesh Yadav. Then how do you explain the poor show that SP put up in 2017 assembly polls ?

Ans : Truth was replaced by fabled stories. Roadmap for development was muddled by the narratives of religion, caste and falsehood. This is extremely unfortunate that a bundle of energy like Shri Akhilesh Yadav was devoid of the great work that he was doing by the divisive politics of the BJP and the communal colours of the RSS. This is mistake that the entire UP has committed frit of which will be reaped by our coming generation. Quoting from the numerous allegations that BJP has made back 2017. One of them being all the appointments being made in the police to the Yadavs – Can you point out one person who is a Yadav is being dismissed by the Yogi government on the grounds of admission. This is BJP’s modus operandi. Hit and Run campaign. Unfortunately the fourth pillar of the democracy, the media is just playing to the tunes of the ruling dispensary. Having said so, both the Samajwadi Party and the voters of UP have learned their lesson and come 2022, we are ready.

Que : Other than Akhilesh Yadav who all do you see can take up a major role nationally in shaping up India’s destiny in years to come.

Ans : I personally believe, there is no shortage of PMs or for that matter inspiring leadership in the nation of Gandhi, Nehru, Bose and Lohiya. However what our constitution mandates and rightly so what India needs is collective leadership rather than one man show like the present regime. Speaking about names, I had great hopes from Nitish Kumar, however he switching to BJP has created serious credibility crisis for him. Given the kind of work Naveen Babu is doing in Odisha on disaster management, inclusive growth and his extra-ordinary response to Covid 19 makes him one of the tallest leaders in India today when it comes to governance. Rahul Gandhi has been extremely mercurial over the years. He has been too good on days where you can almost zero down as he is the man for the future and on other days he turns out to be disappointing. Still I consider he has his heart and vision at the right place, it is the lack of organization depth of the congress party that is hurting him the most. Mamta Baneerjee has also done really nice work in Bengal in many areas. So by and large other than Shri Akhilesh Yadav you will see the likes of these leaders contributing in the India’s growth story in days to come.

Que : What according to you encapsulates the idea of India ?

Ans : To me India encapsulates the dreams and hopes of those who created this modern, democratic, and above all secular state. Ninety years before Independence in 1947, when there was a mutiny‟ against the British in Delhi in 1857, the mutineers approached the powerless Moghul Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zaffer, to lead them because they could not imagine a country without a king. Nehru spoke of the scientific temper as a foundation of new India, and of dams as the temples of modern India. This Idea of India rejects the opposite of what led to Islamic Pakistan—a theocratic state of the Hindu majority. It is a welfare state that would actively work to develop the country for its people; the state has been given an important role. It would control the “commanding heights” of the economy. The Idea is of a modern, educated, democratic, secular, technologically sophisticated society, with equality of opportunity, and gender equality, whose people enjoy a comfortable and healthy life. It offered, not just freedom of worship, but equal respect for all religions. To this I believe that Indian state is what it constitutes as to the people dwelling in it, to the Indians and to the welfare of all.

The Editors Take : The interaction with Mr Rai was extremely heart-warming, more so coming from the national secretary of Samajwadi Party that not before was synonymous with being conservative and run by muscle power in Indian polity. However Mr Rai throughout the conservation was keen and lucid about his structured parameters of governance or for that matter the functional achievements of the SP govt of 2012-17 rather than indulging in the political rhetoric. Must of this could be attributed to the inspiring story that Mr Rai has making it big all the way from the alleys of Balia to the portals of the education in India. More politically relevant, a part of this heartening change must be attributed to the change that Akhilesh Yadav has or trying to craft in the ranks of Samajwadi Party far away from the imagery of being misogynist and dabaang. Roping in and empowering vision driven empathetic person like that of Mr Rai – the metamorphosis of the Green Red Army of SP is real, how much will it translate into electoral gains ? Only time and probably 2022 will answer it the best. Till then it is very much, an everyone’s guess !

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