Eknath Khadse, Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, talks to Shruti Ganapatye about the reasons that led to the end of the 25-year-old BJP-Shiv Sena alliance and how the days of coalition governments are over. Excerpts from the interview:
The 25-year-old Shiv Sena-BJP alliance is now over. Who was responsible for its split?
We were in discussion with the Shiv Sena about seat sharing for the upcoming Assembly polls. However the Sena was not ready to come down from 151 seats and offered us only 119. For how many years should we contest on the same number of seats when our party has emerged as the single largest party in the country? The Sena should have understood that the political situation is changed now and we wanted more seats. The decision was taken after the core committee meeting of the party. We tried our level best to maintain our alliance with the Sena but they showed no flexibility.
Did the split happen because of who would bag the chief minister’s post? Why did the BJP stretch it so long?
We did not stretch it. We were in discussions with them. We demanded a fair share in seat distribution which was not agreed to by the Sena. The chief minister’s post was not the issue.
Why were you upset after Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray came for negotiations?
Yes, I was upset because Aditya is a big leader.
Do you feel that Bal Thackeray, Gopinath Munde and Pramod Mahajan would have made a difference in keeping the alliance intact?
Yes, definitely. Balasaheb, Pramodji and Gopinathji’s experience would have helped in this difficult situation. The Mahayuti with the Sena might have survived with Balasaheb’s intervention. We were always benefited from their experience. There is no other leader in the Shiv Sena or BJP like Balasaheb Thackeray. The present leaders lack that experience required for negotiations. The Mahayuti might have survived if the three stalwarts were alive.
How are you going to contest the Assembly polls without the help of the Shiv Sena?
We have other partners and the Mahayuti still exists without the Sena. We are confident to get a majority and you will see that. All political pundits and analysts were asking the same question during the Lok Sabha polls about the BJP’s performance. No one agreed before the Lok Sabha polls that the BJP and Narendra Modi would get the single largest majority in the country. They were thinking that we might have to take help from other parties. But all their predictions proved wrong and Mr Modi did it alone. Here in Maharashtra also we need no help, our smaller partners are enough.
How come the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) split up after your break-up with the Shiv Sena? Do the BJP and the NCP have a secret pact? Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has also alleged the same.
I was the only leader who exposed many scams of the NCP ministers, including their chief Sharad Pawar and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. I brought forth the irrigation scam of Rs 70,000 crore in the Assembly. I also exposed the land scam of the NCP leaders in which Supriya Sule, her husband Sadanand Sule, and businessman Shahid Balwa was involved. An FIR has been lodged in that case. Recently, I gave a list of 106 scams by the ruling parties to the chief minister. But the transparent leader did not even bother to take action against those involved in the scams. I was open about the allegations and never compromised with anyone.
Do you feel that the BJP will get that majority in the state?
Of course, we will be the single largest party in the state in this Assembly polls. We will make it possible.