Even as experts are writing the political obituary of Maharashtra Congress, former chief minister Ashok Chavan is hopeful that the alliance between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will do well in the upcoming elections. Edited excerpts:
Why are so many Congress and NCP leaders leaving?
Leaders are not leaving the party. They are being pressurised to leave the party. They are being hara-ssed by the BJP government through agencies. Th-ey are being offered posts, money and tickets. This is the trend all over the country, not just Maharashtra.
The Congress and NCP have always been at odds with each other despite being alliance partners. With both parties in crisis, will you bury the hatchet?
In a coalition government, there are bound to be differences between allia-nce partners. There were issues; I don't deny it. Despite this, the alliance helps us keep our votes intact. More importantly, we retain our vote banks. At this juncture, there has to be an alliance.
How do you perceive the Enforcement Directorate’s actions against Mr Pawar?
It is nothing but political vendetta. The ED has been behind Opposition leaders in order to help the BJP finish Opposition parties in the country.
The Shah-Modi combo has been speaking of a ‘Congress-Mukt Bharat’. Will Maharashtra be the first step towards it?
I don’t think so. In a democracy, there can’t be ‘mukt’ Congress or any other party. The BJP is adopting “saam,daam, dand, bhed” policy. The states of Rajasthan, MP, and Chhattisgarh have proven that ‘Congress-Mukt’ slogan is not acceptable to all. I don’t think everybody will be swayed by such slogans.
How close will the contest be this time? How many seats do the Congress and NCP expect to win?
It is too early to say. Let’s see how the seats are distributed. It also depends on the candidates. Congress has good candidates for the seats that have been shortlisted so far. I am confident that both parties will win a good number of seats.
How important is the VBA factor? Does the Cong-ress still believe that the VBA is the BJP's B-team?
I will not say that but people have seen VBA’s role. VBA is ultimately helping the BJP. This can be gauged from the results of the Lok Sabha election. People have realised that voting for the VBA ultimately helps the BJP. Things are changing on the ground now.
Mr Pawar was trying to bring the MNS into the alliance. Will the Congress agree to this?
I don’t think Raj Thackeray had been keen on joining the alliance. The NCP’s stance on the issue is a different matter. Within the Congress, we have reservations about the MNS.
There is factionalism in the state Congress unit and you have been a victim of it. How do you plan to address it?
I have never been a victim of factionalism. I have resigned on my own because I felt that someone who can get things done should be given the opportunity. I have tried my level best in the last four years but things went otherwise. I faced things sternly and boldly. Poor political chemistry failed us this time. So, I thought that it was better if I resigned.
What is your assessment of Devendra Fadnavis’ tenure?
Very poor performance. The promises that were made during the election campaign have not been fulfilled. Whether it is the issue of unemployment, farmers’ suicides, loan waiver, employment generation, or the economic slowdown, Maharashtra has gone from bad to worse....