In candid tête-à-tête with Shruti Ganapatye, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant admits that the party is unhappy with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation poll results.
Is the Shiv Sena happy with the outcome of BMC polls?
We are not happy with the BMC poll results. We were expecting more than 100 seats, maybe an absolute majority, you can say. The aggressive manner in which Uddhavji (Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray) launched his campaign and the support he got from Mumbai, we thought we would easily cross the 100 mark. But that did not happen.
So, what went wrong?
We will introspect. There were lacunae in the party — internal disputes — that went against us. But division of votes by virtue of region, language and religion also cost us dear.
This time your campaign did not revolve around “Marathi manoos” but “Mumbaikar”. Why?
When we spoke about Marathi, we were never against other people. Marathi people were deprived of their legitimate right to get a job by the people (outsiders) who were in power. Those in power would call people from other states. Hence, we demanded priority be given to the sons-of-the-soil. Uddhavji took a stand on “Mi Mumbaikar,” indicating that those belonging to Mumbai are Mumbaikars irrespective of their caste, region and religion. Also, son-of-the-soil is anybody who is born and brought up in Maharashtra. American President Donald Trump is saying the same thing that the Sena said 50 years ago.
But the Gujarati and north Indians in Mumbai did not vote for the Sena?
I don’t think that all north Indians voted completely in favour of the BJP. But yes, it’s true that we did not get votes from the Gujarati and Rajasthani communities living here. I was even told that a video clip circulated among these communities strengthened the opinion of these communities against us.
How does the BJP emerging as Sena’s No. 1 competitor in Mumbai affect you?
People will realise that this will not be a permanent picture. The day they (BJP) spoke about Hindutva, they called Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the oath-taking ceremony. The way they (BJP) dealt with the issue of Article 370, Uniform Civil Code, Ram Temple showed their true colours. The BJP joined hands with the People’s Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir. Questions have been asked as to why the Sena is in power with the BJP? It is in the interest of the state! You tell me what will happen if we pull the support of the government? The BJP will come in minority and will not continue to remain in power. It was a minority government and we supported the BJP to have a stable government in the state.
So, are you doing a favour to the BJP by continuing with them in the state government?
Definitely. Yes. We are doing a favour to the BJP by not pulling out from the government.
After breaking the alliance of 25 years, both parties seem to have benefited from it?
I don’t think so. We lost a lot. We allowed them to grow when they (BJP) did not have any reach in the villages. We took the BJP to every nook and corner of the state. When they did not get candidates for local body polls, they lifted our candidates. They begged us for seats to grow their party base and Balasaheb was very generous as far as Hindutva agenda was concerned.
Is the Shiv Sena trying to dent the BJP outside Maharashtra? You contested elections in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and your closeness to Hardik Patel suggests so?
We plan to expand our base in other states. We contested in Goa. We are contesting in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, Uddhavji has received requests from other states to support the candidates who want to contest in Sena’s name. We had one MLA in UP who got elected on our ticket. But we wanted that there should not be division of votes and confined our party to Maharashtra. We remained in the state and got more vote share here while the BJP got more share at the Centre.
Will Hardik Patel be Shiv Sena’s face in Gujarat? Also, will it work?
The Shiv Sena has got its own face. Mr Patel is standing for some issues and the Sena supports him for that.
Do you think the BJP is trying to marginalise its allies everywhere?
You see BJP’s history. They make alliance with regional parties and then marginalise them after their work is done. The same thing happened in Goa where they joined hands with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. The BJP dumped the party later. They obliterate regional parties with a strategy and take hold of the state. The British would do that.
How do you see the future alliance between the Sena and BJP?
The BJP’s slogan is, Sabka sath, sabka vikas. But this is not followed when it comes to alliance partners. They do not consider us in the decision-making process.
What will happen in the BMC?
Uddhavji has already cleared his stand on the issue. He is a different kind of leader and will not turn away from his statements. He has also said that Maharashtra will have Sena’s chief minister....