Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav has said that the alliance between his party and the Bahujan Samaj Party is the future of the country, The Indian Express reported on Friday.

“Our gathbandhan [alliance] was formed because PM Modi came to UP and said he is [from] a backward [caste],” Yadav told the newspaper in an interview. “People have understood that he is not. The two, three, of us are working to bring changes through social justice.”

Yadav said when the talk of alliance between SP and the BSP began, he had said that he was prepared to walk two steps behind the Mayawati-led party. “This is a gathbandhan for the future of this country,” he added. Yadav was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh from 2012 to 2017.

The SP chief said the alliance would remain intact for the next state Assembly polls, but added that the chief ministerial candidate had not been decided yet. “If we thought so far ahead, this ‘gathbandhan’ would not have been there,” Yadav said. “The alliance is based on what is going to happen today. Our politics is not based on posts, today or tomorrow.”

Yadav said the alliance was of the poor. “And it was not just our leaders, our workers wanted to work together because of the injustices and false cases,” he added.

Asked if Mayawati is the alliance’s prime minister candidate, Yadav said the decision will be taken on May 23, when the Lok Sabha election results are declared. “Mayawati ji has been UP CM several times,” Yadav told The Indian Express. “She has the experience. She has taken important decisions. We see discipline in her programmes.”

The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister dismissed the criticism that the alliance is dependent on caste numbers. “It is the PM who came to UP and said he is from a backward caste,” Yadav said. “And when Mayawati ji pointed out that he does not belong to a backward caste, and that he changed his caste on paper, he has been saying he is from the ‘poor’ caste. Now, which new caste is this? It is not part of the Mandal Commission report. He cannot fool the people.”

Asked if the election campaign changed in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot airstrikes, Yadav said the BJP tried hard do make them the top agenda. “We cannot be nationalists if we ask questions?” he asked. “Is asking for the truth wrong in a democracy? Shouldn’t the country know, shouldn’t the government tell, how much RDX there was at Pulwama, and how it got here? What was the route? Forget what happened to Pakistan. Just tell us what was the route the RDX took.”

The SP president alleged that there were no differences between the Congress and the BJP, and the country would have been prosperous had the two parties not followed wrong policies.

Yadav said the Samajwadi Party did not make mistakes that the BJP can take advantage of. “We have learnt to do caste headcounts from the BJP,” he added. “It is the BJP that is the most casteist party, we have seen that in UP.”