A day after announcing that Hardik Patel, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leader of the Patidar quota agitation in Gujarat, will be the face of the party when it contests polls in Gujarat, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray speaks to Vishwas Waghmode on plans to expand beyond Maharashtra, ties with the BJP and the party’s strategies
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The Sena has controlled the BMC for nearly two decades. Despite various projects and initiatives, the city’s roads and drains are not up to any global standards and the city ranks low in quality of life surveys. Will the anti-incumbency factor on these issues hurt the Sena more than the BJP?
I’m not justifying it but see the comparisons. Though cities such as Delhi and Chennai were flooded due to heavy rainfall in recent times, Mumbai did not flood despite heavy rainfall. Giving preference to the issue of Mumbai’s flood water drainage, we have built several pumping stations in the city. Two remain to be built. Once these are completed, the city will never face floods like it did in the past. About the roads, major roads such as the eastern and western express highways are with the public works departments, and not with the BMC. We carry out repairs of the roads. But then, the roads are dug up by agencies for underground utilities. We have now planned a duct system for utilities. We also carry out nullah cleaning regularly but there are certain practical problems.
On one hand the Sena is wooing Mumbaikars of all communities and religions, but on the other hand you are hardening your stance on Hindutva and the Ram temple issue. Do Muslim voters have reasons to be nervous?
The Sena never changes its stand for votes. Since 1997, this is the first time that we are contesting all 227 seats in Mumbai. When the non-Marathi seats were with the BJP, we were together in an alliance and we helped them genuinely. This means we had then given candidature to non-Marathis too, then through the BJP.
What about a post-poll alliance? Is the Sena-BJP break-up a Part Two of what happened in Dombivli ?
BJP wants parivartan. What I understand from it is that BJP does not want Sena. They want (Om) Kalani, Mufti Mohammed (Sayeed), goons and not sadhus and mahants. They may also call ‘Dawoodacharya’. If this is how the BJP is going, how can we be with them? There was a time when saadhus, mahants and Shankaracharyas used to be with the BJP on the dais to give blessings. Now, we are seeing those people in the BJP who are known for causing trouble. This kind of parivartan is not acceptable to us.
While the BJP has been appropriating national icons such as Babasaheb Ambedkar and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the past, they have now mentioned a grand Bal Thackeray memorial in their manifesto. How will you counter that?
It is ridiculous. Besides this, they have also removed Gandhiji. They cannot do anything without using Balasaheb’s name. I would like to point out that I mentioned my father’s memorial in the Assembly election manifesto as it is the state government’s job to do this, not the BMC’s. In our party’s manifesto for the BMC polls, we are not promising anything like a Metro, airport, etc. Because these are not the BMC’s jobs. The Mumbai civic body has already made provisions for some of the works that they mentioned in their manifesto. This is because the BJP has never made a manifesto for the city or the state earlier. The only suggestions we received from them for the manifesto were 10-15 photos of leaders to be published in it.
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There is a criticism that in the previous NDA government, due respect was given to all alliance partners, but they are slowly being sidelined now. What is your view?
I don’t know about other parties. But see, leaders such as Naveen Patnaik, Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalithaa and Nitish Kumar, who separated from the BJP, have won polls in their respective states. It is because the people have realised that the BJP is not trustworthy and it betrays people.
Do you believe the CM was personally keen to keep the alliance intact?
An alliance means that there should be respect for each other. We have been giving the BJP a large number of seats in the last 20 years for the Assembly and municipal corporation polls. As party president, there was no hurdle from my side for the alliance. If the CM was keen, who obstructed it? It is true that I continue to have excellent relations with the CM. I’m the party president and have to take the final call. Unfortunately, the CM is not the head of his party, which is why they have to listen to the seniors.
Do you think the CM was not able to stop the city BJP leaders who repeatedly levelled the allegations of a mafia raj in the BMC in past two years?
Either they have a tacit understanding or he doesn’t have control over them. If he is not able to control his leaders, how is he going to control the state?
BJP has demanded appointing a Lokayukta in the Mumbai civic body. Would you back that?
The state government should first implement the model of having the Opposition leader and deputy lokayukta in the state cabinet meetings. This model should be implemented across the state. And if they have guts, at the Centre too. Nobody is telling us precisely who has taken the decision regarding the noteban. So, we need a Lokpal in the Union Cabinet too.
If the Sena and the BJP have differences over so many issues, why is the Sena talking about a notice period instead of pulling out?
Mumbai polls and zilla parishad polls are coming. Let these things get settled first, then we will take a call.
There are predictions that if any party (Sena or BJP) gets a majority in the BMC, mid-term polls may take place in the state. Is this a possibility?
It depends on the BJP’s approach to its partner in the government. If the BJP calls ‘Dawoodacharya’ on the dais, mid-term polls may happen. They were supposed to catch Dawood but are not able to do so. All those people with criminal backgrounds become saints when they join the BJP. The party has become a laundry. If Sena gets majority, it may happen. The kind of parivartan is happening in BJP is not acceptable to us and to the people as well. But I don’t know what the NCP chief will do in such a scenario.
Do you think there is space for a non-BJP and non-Congress alliance in the country?
Looking at the current political scenario, I think there is a need to forge an alliance of all regional parties across the country. Often, national parties do not respect the state’s pride and they send their party activists as governors, impose upon the people a chief minister of their choice, and then the government is run based on their wishes. Sometimes decisions made by these people are against the state’s pride. That’s why it is necessary to form an alliance of regional parties now.