The Congress Party appointed Milind Deora as the chief of its Mumbai unit on March 26, just a month before the Lok Sabha polls in the country’s financial capital, in an attempt to tide over growing factionalism in the party. Mr Deora, who is considered to be a member of Rahul Gandhi’s young brigade in the party, was given the responsibility to rejuvenate the party cadre within a month. In an interview to The Asian Age reporter Sonu Shrivastava, former Union minister and Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora said that there is no Modi wave in the country like in 2014. Mr Deora, who is Congress’ candidate in Mumbai South constituency, has received support from the likes of Mukesh Ambani and Uday Kotak. However, he insists that he is the voice of not only the business community in the city but also the paanwalas, whom he can represent in Delhi. Mr Deora is contesting against Shiv Sena’s candidate Arvind Sawant from Mumbai South. He shared his opinions on the political scenario and the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
What differences do you see between the 2014 and 2019 general elections?
There is no Modi wave like in 2014. People have realised that the promises made in 2014 were not fulfilled. Another major difference is that there was a feeling that Mr Modi is good for business and economy. That myth has also been busted. The 2019 general election has an undercurrent of change and no hype. In many senses it’s like my first election of 2004. No pundit could guess it right. “India Shining” misled and misinformed; the people of India delivered a surprising mandate.
Why are businessmen like Mukesh Ambani and Uday Kotak supporting you?
If you see the video that I have posted on Twitter, you will realise that the video includes a paanwala to a stainless steel trader to industry captains. They have seen my work and they know how well I understand South Mumbai and how committed I am to represent it in Delhi. The business and trading communities want people who can understand their issues and articulate them before the government. I feel enterprise is very important for growth and jobs.
How many seats are you expecting to win in Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai?
I don’t get into predictions. But I am certain that the Congress and NCP alliance is making a remarkable comeback.
How is Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray’s campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah going to help the Congress-NCP alliance?
The election results will provide answers to that. We need no help from any party. We have our message and strategy in place. The Congress alone has the capacity to woo voters.
Is MNS intending to become a part of the Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra Assembly election that is scheduled in September-October?
You should ask them. I don’t think this arrangement is possible. We have not sought support from any party and I personally oppose the politics of appeasement and opposition towards any community for their practices and beliefs.
What impact will the factionalism in your party have on the general election? What measures are you planning to take to end the factionalism in the Mumbai City Congress unit?
There are no factions in the Congress. In any democratic party differences do exist. They cannot be termed factionalism. The party is united and we are giving a good fight to the BJP and Shiv Sena alliance.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi and party general secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra did not come to the city for a single rally. What went wrong that the Congress failed to organise a big party rally in the city even after the announcement of the poll date?
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has launched a party campaign in March for the upcoming elections. Mr Gandhi is in Maharashtra today. His visits are driven by various calculations. The party believes the campaign in Mumbai is going good after he opened it last month.
How are you going to provide a 500 sq ft house to slum dwellers as promised by Rahul Gandhi in March? What is the exact plan of a 500 sq ft house to slum dwellers?
All you need is political will. If on mill lands and under SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority), tall towers with spacious homes can happen. Then why not 500 sq ft for all living in dilapidated buildings and slums? We are talking to town planners and urban renewal experts. Cluster development on Bhendi Bazar has given us a reason to believe that it is possible.
As you have been appointed the city Congress chief, what changes will the city witness with you at the helm?
The Congress party in Mumbai will make development a centrepiece of its politics. I will reorganise the party to take up civic issues of clean air and water. Non-developmental issues dominate Mumbai politics. We will strive to control the Mumbai Municipal Corporation to give Mumbaikars a better city.
The BJP has criticised the reversal of the CRZ proposed by Congress, calling it anti-Mumbaikar. What do you have to say about that?
The BJP development plans are only to benefit landsharks and private companies. See what they are doing with MbPT land. Whether the CRZ or DP plan, builders will be benefited under BJP’s rule. The common Mumbaikar will lose and we will not allow them to suffer.