'In Politics, One Cannot Predict The Future': Maha Dy CM Devendra Fadnavis On PM's Recent Overtures To Uddhav Thackeray; Read Full Interview

'In Politics, One Cannot Predict The Future': Maha Dy CM Devendra Fadnavis On PM's Recent Overtures To Uddhav Thackeray; Read Full Interview

Responding to the question if he was the architect of split in the Shiv Sena, Fadnavis said, "I did not break the Shiv Sena. It broke because of Uddhav's ambition to capture the chief ministership. Shinde was humiliated within the Shiv Sena and that is the reason why he decided to break away. Also, Uddhav had moved away from the thoughts of Balasaheb."

S BalakrishnanUpdated: Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 06:09 PM IST
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Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis | X

With the campaigning for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections reaching its crescendo, all eyes are on Maharashtra's deputy chief minister and the BJP's senior leader Devendra Fadnavis (53), who is leading the ruling MahaYuti coalition in its battle against the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). He told a select group of journalists at his residence "Meghdoot" on Napean Sea Road on Wednesday that there is only one Prime Ministerial candidate all across and that it is Narendra Modi and that the people are supporting him in a big way so that Modi's vision of a Vikasit Bharat is fulfilled.

Excerpts from an interview:

Why is PM Modi repeatedly campaigning in Maharashtra? Is the MahaYuti not confident of performing well in the polls?

That is not the case. We are very confident of bettering our performance than in 2019. The response to Modi's rallies is very good all over the state.  The fact is that this time there is more time for the campaign and hence we are making maximum efforts to reach out to as many voters as possible. Apart from that we are also trying to ensure the 100 % defeat of certain opposition candidates.

It appears that the construction of the grand temple for Lord Ram at Ayodhya is not likely to yield political dividends. What is your take on this?

In the first place, the Ramjanambhoomi  matter was never a political issue with my party. We took up the issue only as a part of the cultural renaissance of the nation. We have not raked it up in the election. But one message of the temple construction is that people are realising that Modi is a man of his word. He promised to build the temple in Ayodhya and he has delivered on his promise. We have also changed the narrative which prevailed (under the Congress) as per which even going to temple was looked upon as an anti-secular act. There was appeasement (of the minorities). All that has changed now.

Modi recently stated in an interview that he was willing to extend non-political help to Uddhav Thackeray and his family. Is this indicative of a post-poll arrangement with the Shiv Sena (UBT)?

That was not the context. Modiji was in regular touch with Uddhav when the latter was undergoing a major surgery. Modiji was personally close to the late Balasaheb Thackeray and that emotional attachment is still there. It is unfortunate that Uddhav has moved away from the ideology of Balasaheb. In any case, there will be no need to take the support of the Shiv Sena (UBT) because the NDA will secure a comfortable majority on its own. We have also noted the personal attacks that Uddhav is repeatedly making on Modiji and the "galli level" language he is using. But in politics one cannot predict the future.

The BJP and the undivided Shiv Sena were together for several long years. Is there ever a possibility of a patch up?

We did not break the alliance. The break up was because of Uddhav's ego. Uddhav wanted his son Aaditya to be made the chief minister when he realised that Eknath Shinde has the backing of a majority of Shiv Sena MLAs. Uddhav had a bad experience with Narayan Rane  as the CM since the latter became too powerful (to be controlled). Hence he wanted someone from within the Thackeray family to be the CM and his candidate was  his son Aaditya. But, the latter used to throw his weight around when he was only a minister and Shinde was much senior to him in cabinet. 

You are credited with the breakup of the Shiv Sena. Please comment.

I did not break the Shiv Sena. It broke because of Uddhav's ambition to capture the chief ministership. Shinde was humiliated within the Shiv Sena and that is the reason why he decided to break away. Also, Uddhav had moved away from the thoughts of Balasaheb. The BJP and the Shiv Sena of Shinde have come together because both of us believe in Balasaheb's ideology. In any case, what has Uddhav done for the Marathi manoos ? The BDD chawl redevelopment which concerned most Marathi people was undertaken by us and not Uddhav. He has only exploited Marathi sentiments.

Ajit Pawar has disclosed that he joined hands with you to form the government earlier with the full blessings of Sharad Pawar. He said Pawar Sr  was never against the BJP. Please comment.

Sharad Pawar encouraged his nephew Ajitdada and then backed out. It was a strategic move to project Ajitdada as the villian. Sharad Pawar is only keen on promoting his daughter Supriya.

The MVA is accusing Modi of planning to change the Constitution. What is your response?

That's a canard. After the Supreme Court's judgment in the Kesavananda Bharati case, the basic structure of the Constitution cannot be changed at all. Also, if we indeed wanted to change the Constitution we could have done that long back. There is absolutely no truth in the opposition's allegation.

Uddhav Thackeray had opposed the proposal for a mega oil refinery at Nanar and a huge atomic energy project at Jaitapur which would have brought several billions of dollars of investment into the state. Why are you not reviving these projects which will benefit the people of Maharashtra in a big way? Also, Uddhav is alleging that major projects are being shifted to Gujarat. 

We want these projects in Maharashtra. The refinery is being relocated at Barsu, but before that several studies have to be conducted at the new site. The work is going on. As for projects going to Gujarat, it is not at the expense of Maharashtra. Several projects like the second international finance centre are also likely to be in Maharashtra. What did the opposition leaders do when they were in power? The important thing to note is that Maharashtra is still ahead of other states in terms of overall industrial growth.

The home ministry is under you and you appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the mysterious death of Divya Salian. Whatever happened to the investigation?

The probe is continuing. But the SIT is facing difficulties since some of the evidence has been wiped out. Also, the SIT was constituted rather late in the day.

The south Mumbai Lok Sabha seat is a prestigious one. How come the BJP conceded it to the Shiv Sena despite the fact your party had won from this seat several times in the past? You also conceded Thane to the Shiv Sena.

We were very keen on getting the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg seat where Narayan Rane is contesting now. Hence we decided to concede south Mumbai to the Shiv Sena. As for Thane, I tried for it till the end. We had won that seat five times while the Shiv Sena had won seven times under Anand Dighe. Finally, we let Shinde have his way in this seat.

The economic offences wing (EOW) of the Mumbai police has made an application for closing the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank against Ajit Pawar's wife, Sunetra, and others, while the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is opposing that. Both these agencies are controlled by BJP ministers. What is happening?

The ED's fear is that if the closure report goes through then the two other important cases related to the bank might fall through. That is why the ED is opposing the EOW's proposal. 

PM Modi had accused Ajit Pawar of being involved in the Rs 70,000 cr irrigation scam. But now you have joined hands with Pawar. How do you explain this?

In the first place, Modiji did not mention Ajit Pawar by name.  I myself had raised this issue as an MLA in the past. The police have inquired into the allegations and even chargesheeted the persons concerned. But, nowhere Ajit dada's name cropped up. 

One of the biggest mysteries of contemporary Maharashtra politics is that the BJP's central leadership did not make you the chief minister despite the major role you had played in dividing the Shiv Sena and bringing about the downfall of the Uddhav government. What is the reason for this?

What you are saying is not true. In the first place, I did not split the Shiv Sena. That party split because of its own internal problems. As for making Shinde the CM, it was I who recommended his name. We could have easily asked for the chief ministership. But I said `no' else we would have been accused of hankering after the CM's office. Also, by making Shinde the CM, lot of confidence was instilled among his supporters. I did not want any post for myself. But my party said I should lead the government from inside and that's how I became the deputy CM after being the CM earlier.

The Maratha reservation agitation has brought about a divide between the Maratha and OBCs. What impact will that have on the elections? You brought a law granting reservations to Marathas. Yet Manoj Jarange Patil is appealing to Marathas to vote against MahaYuti candidates.

It is true that the agitation had created caste tensions. But no major incident occurred as a result. The issue is not posing any problem in any of the 48 seats except in four constituencies. The social fabric should not be disturbed. As for Jarange Patil's appeal to Marathas, you should ask him why he is doing that. Our government has brought a law which provides reservation for Marathas and we are committed to it.

You had earlier said the Maratha agitation was stage managed by certain forces in the state. You had even appointed an SIT to unearth the truth. What happened to that?

The SIT has chargesheeted some people. Its inquiry is still on.

The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation has been without elected representatives for several years now. Why aren't you holding the polls?

We are ready to hold the polls today. But the matter is before the Supreme Court which has granted a stay. We are willing to face the people anytime. 

The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), which is under you, has sought the sanction of the municipal commissioner to prosecute two assistant municipal commissioners Mahesh Walanju and Sharad Ughade.  When Iqbal Chahal was the commissioner he refused permission to the ACB. Why don't you act on the matter?

The file in such matters does not come to me. It is for the commissioner to decide.

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