Taking pot-shots at Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over the latter’s allegations of corruption in the Shiv Sena-dominated Mumbai municipal corporation, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said, “If Fadnavis is so immature (na-samaj) that he does not understand the way the municipal corporation functions, I am scared for the future of Maharashtra now.” He also ruled out the possibility of a pre-poll alliance with the BJP, Sena’s traditional partner. “We will definitely not enter into an alliance for the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) polls. But now, I have decided that the Sena will contest even the other elections on its own steam,” he said in an interview to The Sunday Guardian. He said, Sena would definitely win the prestigious Mumbai municipal corporation elections to be held on 21 February.
In a free-wheeling chat, the Sena supremo answered questions on varied topics including the fate of alliance with the BJP in the state government, the likely results of the prestigious Mumbai municipal corporation elections, Shiv Sena’s performance in the Uttar Pradesh elections, expectations from Prime Minister Narendra Modi about Pakistan, vision for Mumbai, etc.
Shiv Sena and BJP have ruled the Mumbai municipal corporation in alliance for over 20 years and this will be the first time in 20 years that they would fight the elections separately. “This is the easiest election for me,” he said, adding that the Sena would win it easily. “Congress and NCP are almost decimated here. BJP has been hurting itself by making false allegations,” he said.
Refuting the possibility of getting into a pre-poll alliance with the BJP for any future elections, Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray asserted, “There is no question of forming an alliance with BJP before any BMC polls now. In fact, I have now decided that we (Shiv Sena) will fight all the future elections on our own steam.” But he refused to comment on the possibility of any post-poll alliances between the two parties. He also rubbished rumours that his ministers would resign from the state government on the last day of election campaigning, i.e. on 18 February.
Political circles in Mumbai have been rife with speculation about the Shiv Sena withdrawing support from the state government this month. The continuous bickering and infighting between the old allies reached a new low this week after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis compared Mumbai to Patna in terms of development index. “My relationship with Mumbai is more important to me than my relationship with the CM,” Thackeray said. Both Uddhav Thackeray and Devendra Fadnavis are known to be good friends.
When asked why the Sena did not choose to leave power in the state government if it was unhappy with the BJP, he asked, “Instead of asking us to leave the alliance, why don’t you ask them to walk out of the government and leave us? They should show if they can form government with somebody else’s support. Why don’t they leave us? What stops them?”
This week, Thackeray had challenged the BJP to bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi for campaigning to Mumbai. When asked about this, he said, “Whatever I do, I do with self-confidence. I didn’t intend to challenge the PM to come to Mumbai. But just two years ago, Modi had addressed 27 rallies in Maharashtra during the state legislative elections, leaving his work. Even today, he has been wasting time in making fun of others. He doesn’t want anybody to ask him questions. Nobody is supposed to ask about the result of demonetisation. Now, even someone like Nitish Kumar is upset with him. He has been asking about black money. Honestly, whether it be the CM or the PM, they should spend time on the functioning of the government instead of doing political campaigning. Even then, if Narendra Modi decides to come to Mumbai, let him come. I will show him how despite his campaigning, Mumbai will bless the Shiv Sena with power.”
Targeting the Central government, he said, the Centre is busy engaging the opposition, instead of taking on Pakistan. “I was among the first persons to call Narendra Modi and congratulate him after the surgical strikes. I had told him, this was a good beginning. Just like Indira Gandhi had shown the courage to break Pakistan into pieces, if Modi would have continued his assault on Pakistan, I would have praised him,” he said.
He also claimed that Mumbaikars were upset with the Central BJP leadership’s plan of “making Mumbai financially weak”. “Many institutions of financial importance are being situated outside Mumbai. Mumbaikars are smart enough to see this ploy. They will show their discontent through the ballot,” he said.
Accusing the BJP of “becoming greedy for power”, he said the party barely respected the alliance anymore. “During the 2014 elections, they broke the alliance. I still let it go. I was happy with the fact that at least the Congress was driven out of power in Maharashtra. But I realised that BJP wanted to keep power for itself, and not share it at all. We didn’t let that happen,” he said.
‘FALSE PROMISES IN UP’
Predicting BJP’s defeat in the coming Uttar Pradesh elections, he said that the party had made false promises in its manifesto because it knew it would not come to power. “BJP has promised loan waiver to farmers in UP, because it knows it isn’t going to win. If they are so committed to waiving off the loans of farmers, why don’t they do it right away? They are in power at the Centre and in Maharashtra. I have already sent my ministers’ delegation to both Arun Jaitley and to Devendra Fadnavis, seeking the complete waiving of loans for farmers. What stops them from doing it now?” he asked. He predicted that Akhilesh Yadav would win the elections in UP.
He was also confident of Sena’s good performance in the UP elections. Shiv Sena has fielded over 60 candidates there. “If Shiv Sena would have entered national politics after the demolition of Babri masjid, it would have been a major national political party by now,” he said, answering a question on Shiv Sena’s election strategy in Uttar Pradesh.
“You might be aware that when Babri masjid was demolished, there was a wave for Shiv Sena, not just in Uttar Pradesh, but in the entire country. The BJP leadership ran helter-skelter after the Babri demolition. Some went into hiding, some called it a black day. There was an environment of fear in BJP. But we all know the position taken by the late Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray then. If Sena would have entered national politics then, left the confines of Maharashtra, then it would have been a major political party in the country. I can say this for sure. But, unfortunately, I would admit that it was our mistake then. At that time, Balasaheb thought Hindu votes should not be polarised. We had entered into an alliance for Hindutva. So, in the interest of a unified Hindu vote, he decided that he would stay confined to Maharashtra. We actively stopped our Shiv Sainiks from fighting elections outside Maharashtra, so BJP would not be in trouble. But in effect, many of our Sainiks who wanted to fight elections, entered the BJP.”
Calling the BJP a sham, he said, “Now, after being in alliance with the BJP for 25 years, we have realised that Hindutva was a façade by BJP. They are only interested in power. So, we broke the alliance in Maharashtra.Outside Maharashtra, there was anyway no alliance. But we had refrained from fighting elections. We have changed that stand now. We don’t claim that we will bring our Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh or in Bihar. Our initial position is that we will support the small regional parties which have local agenda. There is a Hindutva thought in the entire country. Shiv Sena is the only party in the country which stands for that today. We will definitely mobilise like-minded people under our banner now, and play a role in the national politics,” he said.
He added that his party would not be adversely affected by the disgruntled workers who had rebelled after they were denied tickets. “That issue has been resolved. Most of them have returned to the party fold. I don’t think that will impact the elections,” he said.