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Sunday Interview with Ashok Chavan: ‘Maharashtra BJP lacks leadership’

DC | SHRUTI GANAPATYE
Published Oct 12, 2014, 11:02 am IST
Updated Mar 30, 2019, 10:01 pm IST
The BJP leaders are trying their best to make this Assembly election a prestige issue

Assembly polls are only a few days away. How is the Congress faring in the state?
The scenario is looking good. I have recently been to Aurangabad and a few other places. I am holding rallies in Nanded, a Congress stronghold. Yes, there are minor problems, such as the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), putting up their candidates. I will not say that the votebank is disturbed because of the MIM candidates, but we are yet to see how things unfold. This is the first time that all the parties are contesting separately in this state. And if you take a feedback from the public, the situation should be good for the Congress.

Do you see a Modi wave in the state as during the Lok Sabha elections?
No. I do not see any such impact this time. Despite much hype during the Lok Sabha polls, I won by 82,000 votes. My family’s work and the party have given me strength.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is holding a lot of rallies in Maharashtra. Do you see it as a threat?
A lot of people are criticising the holding of rallies by Mr Modi. I do not understand why the Prime Minister is holding 35-40 rallies for an Assembly election. The Prime Minister campaigning for his party is fine. But why so many rallies? This shows that the local leaders do not have any leadership quality. There is no worthy leader in the state BJP who can attract voters. They are all depending on Mr Modi’s charisma — if there is any — to get the BJP elected.

Is the BJP making the Assembly polls a prestige issue?
Yes, they are trying their best to make it a prestige issue. There are four-five leaders in the race for the chief minister’s post. But there is no state-level leader in the BJP who has the ability to get votes. Eknath Khadse, Devendra Fadnavis, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Vinod Tawde are all in the race to be chief minister, but cannot woo voters. There is a lot of infighting within the party and therefore they need the Prime Minister to seek votes for them.

Who is the contender for the chief minister’s post from your party?
That will be decided after the poll results.

Will you benefit from the BJP-Shiv Sena split?
The Congress will benefit by contesting separately this time. All the Opposition parties are also contesting independently. So there is bound to be a division of votes amongst the Opposition and that will be advantageous for us. Earlier, these parties were fighting the Congress together. After the split, the Shiv Sena is trying to consolidate its position and trying to get bag more seats than the BJP.

What about the split in the Congress and the Nationalist Cong-ress Party (NCP)? Did you anticipate it?
We had not anticipated the break-up. We were ready to give 124 seats to the NCP. But it did not work out.

Will the anti-incumbency factor work against the Congress in the state?
There is no anti-incumbency where we have done developmental works. Take the example of my district, Nanded. My family has undertaken a lot of development works. My father worked here. I nurtured the constituency and therefore, people have a lot of faith in us as well as the Congress. So we are not facing any anti-incumbency factor. We have been working here for the past 40 years and have maintained the district as a Congress stronghold. People want development in their region and if that is done, there will be no opposition to the party. It is true that demands and expectations of the people are changing with changing times. One has to see that the needs of the people are fulfilled.

But all pre-poll surveys have predicted that the Congress would perform poorly in the state polls
It’s too early to make predictions about poll results. Sometimes surveys are right, sometimes wrong. Let’s wait for the results and then speak.

The state’s politics seems to be centered around the Thackeray cousins. How do you see this?

 

After the break-up of the saffron alliance, there is a feeling of isolation in the Shiv Sena. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has also been sidelined after their poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections. There is desperation from both sides to stage a comeback.

Does MNS have any relevance in this electionsl?
I do not think so. They are contesting in only a few urban areas like Mumbai, Pune and Nashik. They will not make much difference.

You led the last state polls as the chief minister and got 82 MLAs elected. Now you are leading the polls as the coordination committee chief of the Congress. What difference do you see in both situations?

Times have changed and the situation is now different. But we are hopeful for the best results. This time we are contesting separately. Let’s see how things shape up.

Speaking about international relations, Mr Modi was staunchly opposing Pakistan before he took over as Prime Minister. Yet he has not taken any strong stand despite the ongoing cross-border firings...
It was easy for him to criticise then, but it is difficult to fulfil pre-poll promises. As a country we are all united and will not tolerate any injustice against our motherland.

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