My Father Said "What Doesn't Belong To Us...": Aaditya Thackeray To NDTV | Read

PUBLISHED ON: June 30, 2022 | Duration: 21 min, 30 sec

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Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray spoke to NDTV on Thursday on the political turmoil in Maharashtra ahead of the epic curveball by the rebel camp and the BJP announcing Eknath Shinde as the next Chief Minister.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

NDTV: How did we reach this point, Aaditya Thackeray? How do you think you came to this point where your father the kind of rebellion that he did?

Aaditya Thackeray: Like you mentioned earlier, unexpected, I think that is the word. Because to be betrayed by your own is a whole different thing altogether, and especially in the time that they took advantage of us, when my father, the honourable chief minister, was just out of surgery, when he was in isolation, that is the time that these traitors took advantage of. And good luck with them for whatever morals they have.

NDTV: So, you're saying this came as a complete shock to you when this news started breaking ten, 12 days ago?

Aaditya Thackeray: No, we had a certain idea, we had a certain idea of a couple of people's ambitions and what they wanted to be and they were also offered those posts exactly a month before this drama started. Having said that, I think whatever's happened has happened and everyone knows what has happened, and the chief minister has been very graceful, very large-hearted, and you've seen the things unfold in the last 24 hours.

NDTV: It's said that there are a lot of differences that Eknath Shinde had with you in particular, and was resentful of your rise within the government, within the party. How would you respond to those allegations?

Aaditya Thackeray: I wouldn't see it from my side that way. I've given more than enough respect to everyone. But it's sad if someone's sad about someone rising, a colleague rising, or a junior colleague, or someone you've treated as family and for the last 15-20 years we've worked together, been in opposition together, come into government together, faced the hard times together, and if someone you've seen from the age of 10-12 who is doing work, being appreciated by people, if you start getting jealous instead of being happy and proud and blessing the person, I mean that speaks a lot about moral values and humanity out there so I wouldn't have anything to comment on that.

NDTV: but would you say there was an ideological churn in your party with Eknath Shinde saying you had given up on Hindutva and core Hindutva, in fact, again coming back to you, they seem to resent your progressive approach to politics and felt that you had deviated from the core agenda of the party.

Aaditya Thackeray: If you see, to be honest, in the last two and a half years of work, never have I ever spoken or criticised anyone in the last two and a half years. In fact, there's not an iota of politics that we have actually played. I think the real disadvantage we had is we may not be seen as the hardcore politicians and probably good people do not have a place in politics our country today. But having said that, if going to Davos and getting 50,000 crores for the state was wrong, maybe we were wrong. If going to cop26 and speaking about the climate change and trying to push the climate agenda, sustainable development, trying to bring younger people in, women, people who have more perspectives than just one into the mainstream. If that is the problem, maybe that is a bigger problem. But I guess that's not something we are here to accept, we are here to listen to more perspectives, have a Maharashtra that was peaceful in the last two and a half years and not have communal tensions flare up, and yet we were the party that went to Ayodhya after the swearing-in was done. The chief minister's been there twice after being sworn in. I've gone there. I think the perspective of what they perceive to be the truth is way different from what Hinduism Babasaheb Thackeray thought it be or the party president thinks it to be or the larger people of Maharashtra.

NDTV: Can you tell me what that difference is? It's interesting that you say that. You're saying you're not giving up on Hindutva but all these other issues, the environment, investment, that is not a contradiction to Hindutva, or even aligning with the Congress or the NCP.

Aaditya Thackeray: Exactly. I don't think it is imperative right now to answer whatever allegations they are making, because people know it is a joke. They have no other reason to have their own higher ambitions and monstrous ambition, so I think even responding to their allegations or such things that they're saying would be a joke to us.

NDTV: But they claim they were very uncomfortable with this whole alliance from the very beginning, with the congress and the NCP. Did they say anything to you, any of these guys today who have now rebelled against the chief minister? Did they ever make their displeasure publicly known to you and your father?

Aaditya Thackeray: To be very honest, in the past two and a half years, whenever the chief minister has been praised, he has said that, be it the Covid work, be it the infrastructure work, be it the importance Mumbai got for the first time in the history of whatever years that we've had, the credit was always shared by the chief minister with every colleague of his. The person who has these ambitions and who started this rebellion, he was given a department which no chief minister has departed with in the last 30 years. More importantly, if there were differences, you could have just come home and spoken. Most importantly in this is differences will always be there in any political alliance. You have seen enough differences in the alliance in the past five years than when we had an NDA government here. You have differences at every level, horizontally and vertically, in politics. It is always about competition. And if at all there are differences, what mature people do is sit down and sort it out. But in terms of funds that were given to all the MLAs given for the constituency works or department-wise, I think all of us as ministers, and as three parties, we've released a paper on how much everyone is given, and especially for the two-term, three-term MLAs, I think they've got historic number of funds in all the constituencies and all the ministries.

NDTV: But there are also allegations being made that your father was not accessible as chief minister to party leaders, to party MLAs, to allies, that he was very aloof, he surrounded himself with a small bunch of loyalists, and was essentially incommunicado.

Aaditya Thackeray: And so, one part is true, and it is unfortunate, but he underwent two surgeries in the month of November and for that he had to be isolated for a month and a half, which is a sad thing. Because it is this time exactly and this reason exactly that these little rebellion leaders have taken and brainwashed some of our MLAs who've been taken away with them. The other side, of course, the letters that came across that there's coterie politics and this and that, I think that is typical run-of-script for every rebellion that happens, the leader doesn't meet us, there's a coterie, there's loyalists. I mean this has happened with the sena ten years ago, or rather more than that, when there was an earlier rebellion, and the names have changed; they've interchanged names, Balasaheb Thackeray's name with Uddhav Thackeray, that he is good but Aaditya's bad. I think this goes on, this is a run of written, old boring script, what is important is, and what is also sad is, yes that is partially true from the month of November that he underwent two surgeries and had to be bubbled out, he couldn't physically meet people for the next month, month and a half. But not a single cabinet meeting was skipped by him, not a single meeting was skipped by him. His work was going on WhatsApp and all the other technology that was in place.

NDTV: There were also reports that Sharad Pawar had warned him a few months ago, or actually five months ago, to be precise, that there was a rebellion brewing within the party, and a serious rebellion, and he didn't take it seriously.

Aaditya Thackeray: I think what is very important is Mr. Pawar or Mrs. Gandhi, the Congress, the NCP, all the leaders stuck with us in these tough times. We all knew there were certain rising ambitions and we had also spoken it out. On 20th may, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray had invited one of these leaders if he wanted to be chief minister, and obviously there was a lot of drama after that and one month later they had to break away. I think what has happened has happened and I think it is up to the morals of the people who have broken away from a man who stood out as a statesman.

NDTV: It's interesting that you repeated that Sharad Pawar and Sonia Gandhi stood by you and your father in these times. Are you saying that you will continue, at least your faction of the Shiv Sena will continue to be in an alliance with the Congress and the NCP?

Aaditya Thackeray: Now, there's nothing about factions. It's about what the Shiv Sena is. Shiv Sena holds together with a strong bond of family and trust. Today also we had the Congress leaders calling on us and committing fully that in these tough times where we've been betrayed by our own, they will stand with us.

NDTV: And you will stand with them.

Aaditya Thackeray: We are standing for a country that is facing a danger to democracy and a danger to the constitution of India.

NDTV: Are you saying therefore that for you and your father to ever ally with the BJP, that that's ruled out, or never say never in politics?

Aaditya Thackeray: The point is right now they're having an alliance and unholy alliance with some people who have betrayed us. And they're probably on the way to form a government. Good luck to them.

NDTV: Aaditya Thackeray, what about the colleagues who have left to you, as you say, you see it clearly as a betrayal, as you put it, but is there a door open with them to talk to them to find a way to repair that relationship? And I'm asking because otherwise you're facing a tough political battle on your hands, as to who really is the Shiv Sena now?

Aaditya Thackeray: A tough political battle and more. So, for me, I think, like I said the other day more than floor test it is the morality test that these people have to undergo, look into our eyes, look into the mirror, into your own eyes and say, what less did we give you? But more than that, I think going ahead, we've always said this, that there has been a smaller group who have rebelled for the monstrous submissions. And there's another group who have been taken away and brainwashed in multiple ways, and some of them have literally been forced away. Now, this is what we hear, some of them in terms of every possible allegation that we've heard, and we've seen on NDTV itself of how they were whisked away from Surat to Guwahati, with two or three policemen catching them by their arms and necks and taking them away. Having said that, we've always said that this has always been a family, this has always been a family, if there are any problems, come and speak to, if at all, you want to come back, the door's always open for those who have been, you know, brainwashed and taken away.

NDTV: A couple of questions that follow on from that one is that, you know, today, we saw Eknath Shinde and his faction, issue a whip, to the party MLAs to be present for a meeting in goa. So, they are claiming that they are the real Shiv Sena. And I think that they're going to claim that in front of the election commission also, are you going to challenge that legally?

Aaditya Thackeray: See, all of these illegal things. But once again, I want to stress on the same thing, that it is impossible to understand how a mindset in work like this against a party, against a family, which is the entire party, and against the person who's the party president who has given you everything and was brought to you so ahead in life, personally treating us family. The rest is all beyond understanding, the rest is all legality, but what about the morals? What about the humanity? I think that is the core of the question.

NDTV: So, are you saying that there can be a rapprochement, that, that if some of these MLAs came and met you that you will keep those doors open?

Aaditya Thackeray: We've always said this. And we've said this from day one, that whoever has been whisked away, whoever has been forced away, whoever has been brainwashed, whoever has misunderstandings, for them, the doors are always open.

NDTV: Why do you say they're brainwashed?

Aaditya Thackeray: Because, see, you have seen in a couple of interviews yourself, I do not want to go details. But some of them are going by a script, some of them are going by an older script, and some of them who have been in touch with us who have been, you know, contacting us through various people, they want to come back, but they were forced to stay there. And you've seen the amount of security, you've seen the amount of force that has been placed there to ensure that no one goes in and no one comes out. So, do you think that some of that force has to do with central agencies at play as well, like the ed and the CBI? No, I think they've just appeared by themselves. And you know, they've just been there to ensure that MLAs they were on a tourism streak protected well, from people who might be, you know, wondering what they're doing in a flood-hit awesome.

NDTV: Do you believe that the BJP was plotting the downfall of your government? Or do you believe that they were the ones responsible for doing this?

I wouldn't go into the depths of it. People know everything. People are smart enough to read through whatever's happening in our country, and whatever is happening in our state. The sadder part is, like I said, our own people who betrayed us, I think, the moral question, the question is to them, how could you do this?

NDTV: But where do you go from here, I mean politically? You have crucial BMC elections coming up and other municipal bodies as well. But the BMC, of course, is the richest in the country. And you don't have a lot of time for that maybe a few short months. What are the challenges that lie ahead for you and your father, then in the next few months?

Aaditya Thackeray: I think two pertinent points you made here, where do you go from here, like I said, onward and upward, because every time the Shiv Sena faces a crisis, it comes together and become stronger. Unfortunately, these leaders who called this rebellion and have rebelled, I wouldn't call it a rebellion also, its treachery, because a rebel actually has the bravery to stand there in his own state, resign and face the elections, which these guys do not have any courage. But about the BMC also, I think another point you made was very, very pertinent. The fact that it is the richest. Now, richest doesn't mean that it can spend it in any which ways. Every penny that has come in to the BMC has been accounted for. Projects have been lined up, the coast road project that is going on, slated to be completed by December 2023. The Worli Sea connector, the MTHL, multiple projects that have been going on. It was probably the for the first time that Mumbaikars felt that we had a chief minister who is from Mumbai, who is voicing Mumbai, working for Mumbai, along with the entire state. For us as Mumbaikars, we were all happy to be working for Mumbai. My worry is also that the importance that Mumbai has got, as a city that deserves importance, will be back to a city that is the hen that lays the golden egg.

NDTV: Do you think in hindsight that some of the comments made by some of your leaders like Sanjay Raut actually backfired and didn't help in this crisis, that perhaps he was a little too loose with his words?

Aaditya Thackeray: Look for someone who's actually gone off to Surat and then off to Guwahati by betraying your own party, there are raw emotions. I'm not defending any statement. I'm not saying what is right, what is wrong. But it is also for the people who betrayed the party, the party men, the party president, and all of us as one family, as one party. It is for them to think that, you know, what have you achieved from doing this and what will you achieve in the long run? How will you face your own mirror?

NDTV: Aaditya Thackeray, so does the does the MVA alliance in Maharashtra still stand as of today? Does it still stand?

Aaditya Thackeray: The MVA is an alliance that came together for the betterment of Maharashtra. The MVA is an arrangement that came together, three parties from different perspectives coming together, showing that this is how democracy can really work, you can have different perspectives in one room and ensure that the state does good work in times of pandemic or in terms of everything else, social, political, economic, or religious, and to have harmony and stability in a state. But while going ahead, while going ahead, we are proud of the work that we have done. We are proud of what the chief minister, the deputy chief minister, all the colleagues have done, we are seeing the raw emotions of people on social media or wherever we meet them. We're also worried as the three parties, for what is going on in the country and how democracy was actually played around with in our state.

NDTV: What exactly is worrying you, and it's interesting that you see the positive side of this alliance. Because, you know, your colleagues who have rebelled saying that, well, this was a contradiction. And it was, wasn't it? Wasn't it an adjustment to work with the congress and the NCP? I mean, you're ideologically so different, or you were.

Aaditya Thackeray: Absolutely. But isn't that what's supposed to happen in a democracy as well, I mean, you can be ideologically different. But if you have the same intent of working well, for the people, the place that Maharashtra has got in terms of covid management that wouldn't have come Maharashtra's way, the praise that we've got for infrastructure, for us on cities, sustainable development, climate agenda, tourism, multiple facets, be it energy, all of it. If we were multiple heads, working in multiple directions, that wouldn't have happened.

NDTV: But what would you say to those in the BJP who turn around and say that it was the Shiv Sena and your father that betrayed them by breaking a pre-poll alliance in 2019? And going with the opposition?

Aaditya Thackeray: I wouldn't say anything to them, because everyone knows what the understanding and the arrangement of that pre-poll alliance was. And I mean, like I said, good luck to everyone who's betraying morals and moving ahead.

NDTV: How's your dad doing, Aaditya, since the resignation?

Aaditya Thackeray: I think he is he is... he is extremely proud of the work that we've managed to achieve. He is, of course, touched by the love of the people. And you know, even driving to raj bhavan yesterday, we had to stop at a couple of places because people on the streets actually stopped us you had Shiv Sainiks. And you also had a larger number of non-political people, citizens actually, stopping us to just wave at us to thank him and show him thumbs up. I think that is the emotion we've really been touched by. He's seen betrayals earlier, and you know, he's not moved by it because he doesn't have any real material attachment to the seat he was holding. He, you know, came off varsha, the moment he said so, he's given his resignation. I think that's very unlikely of any politician who loves saying, I'll come back, I'll come back, you know, that's not his style. He's very graceful. He's very dignified. He said, Aaditya, what doesn't belong to us, never will it - we were doing it for the people.

NDTV: Why did he leave the Assembly?

Aaditya Thackeray: I think for him, he said this very openly that day, that it's not about the numbers, even if a single person, even if one person from the MLAs who have betrayed him, would stand against him, he would move out from there. And he's done that. He's one politician who sticks to his word and maintains relationships.

NDTV: One had a sense earlier, definitely, that he was a reluctant politician. What do you think this entire experience has taught him and taught you?

Aaditya Thackeray: I think more than me or him, I think the people have realised what an administrator he has been. For the last 25 years, the people of Mumbai have trusted us with Mumbai, with the BMC elections, knowing that this man is clean, graceful, doesn't get into the realpolitik. He is someone who goes beyond it and wants to help the people genuinely the response we've seen, even from the IAS and IPS officers, you know, I think whatever said and done, this man has come out as a person who did not wear any false masks of his own, of pride or ego as a chief minister. He was a chief minister, as a human who was before the chief minister, or after the chief minister, as he was always, and will always be.

NDTV: And what do you say to those who say that this? This is actually a commentary on dynasty politics that this is a backlash against the Thackeray family and that family-run parties are increasingly seeing their space shrink in this country?

Aaditya Thackeray: What can I say to them? Good luck with the political analysis.

NDTV: What is your analysis of it?

Aaditya Thackeray: I think we're here to serve. This is my sixth generation in social work. We're here to serve. And there's a lot of people who love us, who trust us. For us, it is about who wants to be in this, I wasn't forced into the party by my father or my grandfather, I came by myself. I love doing the work that we've done. And we will keep on doing. Just that, you know, what my grandfather and his father always, you know, we've always said this in our family, that power and money keep coming, keep going and keep coming again, it can always come back, go and, you know, come back again. You've got to keep your reputation and name. You've got to be careful with that. Don't let that go down the drain. And that's what we're here to do.

NDTV: Well, finally, Aaditya Thackeray, is a Shiv Sena without the Thackeray's possible?

Aaditya Thackeray: I think that's for the people who've tried to do this and who are trying to engineer this to answer.

NDTV: Well, they have been careful not to attack you, or your father personally, at least your father is not being personally attacked.

Aaditya Thackeray: It's not yet in the script. So, it's, you know, that nothing's expected or unexpected anymore.
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