"Uddhav Thackeray Indulging In Appeasement Politics": D Fadnavis To NDTV

Mr Fadnavis also spoke about infrastructure development in Maharashtra and possible new allies


Asserting that the NDA will better its record of winning 41 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra in the 2019 elections despite a strong challenge by the Maha Vikas Aghadi, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said every election is not about political arithmetic and the upcoming polls will be about PM Narendra Modi's chemistry with the people.

In a wide-ranging interview with NDTV's Editor-In-Chief Sanjay Pugalia on Friday, Mr Fadnavis also spoke about the alliance's perceived difficulties in seat sharing, infrastructure development in Maharashtra and Mumbai, possible new allies and the shortcomings of the previous government led by former alliance partner Uddhav Thackeray. 

At 48, Maharashtra sends the second-highest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha and when Mr Fadnavis was asked about the complicated politics in the state given the split in the Shiv Sena and the NCP, he said, "It is not about factions or groups. There are two camps, one that is with PM Modi and one that is against him. The people have decided to vote for those who are with the PM, irrespective of the party or symbol."

On why the BJP had declared the names of 20 candidates for the Lok Sabha elections despite reported difficulties in agreeing on seat-sharing with the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena and the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP, Mr Fadnavis said 80% of constituencies had been agreed upon and every party was free to announce the names for those. 

Emphasising that despite pro-incumbency, the BJP always works with its allies and takes them along, Mr Fadnavis refused to confirm the number of seats each party has decided to contest, citing alliance dharma. He also said there is no formula of the BJP taking the lead in the Lok Sabha polls and giving a bigger share to allies in the Assembly elections.

"We have 115 seats in the Assembly, the Sena has 50 and the NCP has 42 or 43. So, we are still the biggest party in the alliance. Our partners also understand that. But I can definitely say that they will be respected. We will also fight and win the Assembly polls together," he said.

New Alliances?

When he was asked whether there were attempts of allying with Uddhav Thackeray again, Mr Fadnavis dismissed the idea and also criticised the former chief minister's stand on some issues.

"There is no scope of any such attempts. You can take note of this. If he is making an attempt, I don't know. From our end, there is no scope and no reason to do so. The roles he has taken, the anti-Modi role... I am sad that, for vote-bank politics, he is now indulging in pseudo-secular, appeasement politics," he said in Hindi. 

"He has opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act. I am finding it difficult to understand Bal Thackeray's son could do so. So I think the groups are now divided," he added.

The BJP leader said that the NDA is confident it will win 400 seats in the Lok Sabha polls but  the party is not complacent. 

On whether the BJP will claim the chief minister's post, he said, "The Assembly polls are some time away. It's not about who has a claim. Alliances are about winning in some areas and making some sacrifices. It's hard to predict anything in politics. Who would have thought Uddhav Thackeray would desert us after 2019?  What I can say is this alliance will contest together and this chief minister will stay till then."

In an important remark, he said, "This much is true, though, that we had difficulties being allied with him earlier. The problem was that while the BJP believes in regional identity, it also focuses on a national identity. We don't believe in exclusionary politics. Raj Thackeray has now, in addition to talking about Marathi - which he should - also expanded his thought process."

"He talks about Hindutva now and that is something which can connect him with us. So while talks are not on, if you had asked me earlier, I would have said we cannot be allied with him, But I won't say that now. At the same time, we already have three parties in the coalition, and accommodating one more will be a task," he added. 

'No Dependence On Agencies'

Dismissing the opposition's charges about the BJP's dependence on the Enforcement Directorate and central agencies, Mr Fadnavis said the judiciary won't allow any agency to cross its limits. At the same time, if there is corruption, the opposition can't talk about political vendetta, he said.

"You can't win votes on the basis of ED. The poorer sections of society are convinced that the only one who can benefit them, society and the nation is PM Modi," he asserted.

Claiming that the BJP will cross the number of seats it had won in 2019 despite the varying numbers projected after opinion polls, the deputy chief minister said, "I think political pundits make a mistake sometimes by thinking every election is about arithmetic. This election is not about political arithmetic, it is about political chemistry. In arithmetic, 1+1 is 2, in political chemistry, 1+1 is 11. The common man's chemistry is linked with PM Modi. No political pundit is being able to understand this, and nor can they."

Electoral Bonds, Infra Development

Emphasising that Maratha reservation is being given without denting OBC reservation, Mr Fadnavis also spoke about the electoral bonds issue. 

"The Supreme Court has given an order and the Election Commission is complying. All I can say is that the BJP has always tried to curb the use of black money in elections and pushed for the use of accounted money. I don't want to get into the right and wrong, but we are getting data because it is accounted money... We have brought in several reforms for political funding," he said. 

Stating that PM Modi and the Maharashtra government are focusing on infrastructure, Mr Fadnavis pointed to the Atal Setu and the work on the coastal road. Taking another dig at Uddhav Thackeray, he said the stoppage of work on the Metro depot delayed that project, but it will be ready this year, as will the Navi Mumbai airport.

Mr Fadnavis also spoke about the Nagpur and Pune Metro and laid special emphasis on the Vadhvan Port, which, he said, will be able to host even the world's biggest container ship. "All this is possible because the speed and scale of the Modi government is unprecedented," he said.

The Deputy Chief Minister also said the redevelopment of Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, is being done keeping in mind the resettlement of people in the same area. 

"Dharavi is also an economic centre. Keeping that in mind, we will give facilities to enhance production and also give them exemption from paying GST for five years to ease them into the formal economy. The people who settled in Dharavi after 2011 will also be accommodated, maybe some distance away... When the redevelopment is done, people will see how we fought poverty and give rights to the poor," he said. 

'Many Chances'

Thanking Chief Minister Shinde for the freedom given to him, Mr Fadnavis said Uddhav Thackeray had not done enough when he had the post. "Uddhav Thackeray was given many chances by the people of Mumbai but he did not do anything with it. There is not one iconic thing done or built by him or people in his party in the city," he claimed.

The deputy chief minister said the plan for a Shivaji Statue off coast of Mumbai was stuck because of litigation and the bullet train project was delayed because of Mr Thackeray, but has now taken off "like a bullet again". He also said the Mumbai racecourse is not going anywhere, but a huge park will be built around it.