I will take Aaditya’s claim to the CM’s post seriously only if Uddhavji brings it up
Devendra Fadnavis is the first Maharashtra chief minister to embark on a tour of the state seeking another mandate to govern. The month-long Mahajanadesh yatra will see him cover 30 districts, 157 assembly constituencies and over 4,000 km. In an interaction with Kiran D. Tare, Fadnavis affects the confidence of a man who is certain of a triumphant return to power. ‘I shall return’ goes the tagline of the yatra. Excerpts:
Q. What made you embark on a statewide tour?
The BJP has a tradition of yatras. While in opposition, we launched the sangharsh (struggle) yatra. Now, when in power, we are on a samvad (dialogue) yatra to have a dialogue with the people. I am taking word of the government’s work to the people, judging their responses and seeking their blessings. It is an exercise to gauge what people think of us.
Q. You seem to have a mass connect... I can see their enthusiasm. People know your intentions are honest even if you are not able to finish all the work you set out to do. We did not run away from challenges. So people have a lot of expectations. They believe in (Narendra) Modi’s politics of development and trust.
Q. The BJP was an unrecognised force in Maharashtra 10 years ago. Today, you are aspiring to win more than half the seats in the assembly.
Our work is our only brand value. Also, Modi’s strong leadership has sent out a clear message that there will not be any policy paralysis in the BJP.
Q. Then why are you inducting leaders from other parties?
People from other parties want to join us as they can see how well our party is doing. But we have a policy on inductions. Our doors are open to ordinary workers, but we filter leaders. We are in an alliance (Shiv Sena) and poll tickets for leaders from other parties will be limited.
Q. Will the alliance survive without a tussle over seat-sharing?
Yes. There are tremendous positives for the BJP in the state. We might make some adjustments with the Sena. We are ready to suffer some losses, but we will go ahead with the alliance. Our victory will be unprecedented.
Q. Is a seat-sharing formula in place? We will first take a call on the seats to be spared for the Mitra Paksha (three smaller allies). The BJP and the Sena have 122 and 63 (of 288) assembly seats, respectively. So there is no dispute over them. After allotments to the Mitra Paksha, the two parties will share the remaining seats.
“I’m not saying we have been successful on every front. But people are judging us by our good intentions. They are watching us make a sincere effort to solve every issue. That matters”
Q. Some Shiv Sena leaders are projecting Aaditya Thackeray as the future CM. Do you think he will be your main competitor?
People often say things to please their leader. I will take this talk seriously only if Uddhavji brings it up. Aaditya is an upcoming leader. He has the urge to learn. He seeks to be politically active.
Q. Your opponents allege the Enforcement Directorate inquiry against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray was political vendetta.
The BJP does not have any relation with the Enforcement Directorate. They are conducting investigations into irregularities at IL&FS. The name of Kohinoor Mills (once owned by Raj Thackeray) cropped up during the investigation. If Raj Thackeray has not done anything wrong, he has no reason to fear. We don’t need a vendetta. He is not a political threat to us. In the Lok Sabha election, he extended support to the Congress-NCP, still they lost.
Q. How do you look at the economic slowdown in the country?
The Centre changed the tax regime, which had some positive and some negative effects. So many bank frauds took place between 2008 and 2014. Public money was lost. The Modi government has infused liquidity of Rs 70,000 crore into banks. They are trying to end the credit crisis. The slowdown will be over in two months.
Q. You are speaking with some authority on a national issue. Are you preparing to move to Delhi?
I am an obedient soldier, and will play the role the party asks me to. The party might ask me [to move to Delhi] after some time. Leaders need to run the party efficiently. It’s a process. But, as of today, there is no such possibility. ■