For the second time in a year, the estranged Thackeray cousins -- Uddhav Thackeray and Raj Thackeray -- missed an opportunity for reconciliation. While Raj first rejected Uddhav’s offer of friendship, the latter didn’t respond to the former’s invitation to join hands. MNS president Raj Thackeray tells the story behind the lost opportunity.
Q: Uddhav had called you after the BJP and the Shiv Sena parted ways. What did you discuss?
He complained to me that the BJP had cheated him. I asked him how he couldn’t sense the BJP’s plan if I could do it sitting outside. He gave me three proposals: we will discuss seat sharing; we will not criticise each other; we will have some plan after the poll outcome. It was on the night of September 25. He told me that Anil Desai (Sena MP) will call me the next morning. But when our leader Bala Nandgaonkar called Desai twice, he didn’t respond. In the third attempt, he answered the call and said that he would get back. We waited till 5 pm, but he didn’t call us. The deadline for filing nominations was September 27. So I finalised our candidates.
Q: You were a great admirer of Narendra Modi. Why are you targeting him now? I am still a big admirer of his. He is a superb administrator, and there are charges
of corruption against him. But being the Prime Minister, he should think about the whole country, not just one state. I opposed his statements, not to him as a person.
Q: Did he say something wrong?
He had announced that he would launch a Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train. A bullet train is supposed to be built for long distances.
Why not Mumbai-Delhi or Mumbai-Chennai? I have a doubt over his intention behind the idea of this bullet train.
Q: What is wrong in Modi’s intention?
He is still attached to Gujarat. Why did the US President say “kem chho” to him when he represented India as the PM? The US people are known for their meticulous study. Why is Modi giving preference to Gujarat?
Q: What is wrong if the PM gives preference to his home state? Won’t you like it if the US President talks to a Maharashtrian PM in Marathi?
I am not questioning Modi’s credibility or capacity, but the PM should not give preference to his home state. For him, every state should be equal. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indira Gandhi and Pandit Nehru were the PMs of the entire country. And yes, I won’t like it if the US President talks to a Maharashtrian PM in Marathi. The PM’s image must be that of an Indian. Every Indian must feel that he is his or her PM.
Q: Why are you demanding autonomy for Maharashtra? How are your ideas of autonomy different from Omar Abdullah’s?
I am demanding autonomy, not independence. We can’t connect our districts with rail. Why do we need a Union government for that? We want to develop Mumbai’s coast and maintain the forts in the state. Why do we need to seek permission of the Centre for that? Can’t we decide what is good for us?
Q: Where did you get the idea of autonomy from?
The idea was first floated by Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat Chief Minister. He had said he wanted to use the money of the state’s tax payers’ money in the state itself. Now, he is the PM. So he will understand my plight better. This is not an issue of Maharashtra. Every state needs it. I am also planning to write a letter to every state’s CM in this regard.
Q: Don’t you think it will hurt the country’s federal structure?
Then why don’t you call it the United States of India? India is like Europe. Every
state has a different culture. Every one of them thinks that he is an Indian first. Every state should be governed by regional parties. National parties should form governments only at the Centre.
Q: Are you trying to suggest that the national parties should not contest Assembly elections?
Yes. National parties don’t understand regional issues. When there was a dispute over water between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the Congress didn’t take any stand. The same happened in Maharashtra’s dispute with Karnataka over the border issue. At the same time, the regional parties shouldn’t contest Lok Sabha elections.
Q: Won’t your party contest the next Lok Sabha elections?
I am thinking of not contesting the Lok Sabha polls.
Q. Which party will you support if no one is in a position to form a majority government in Maharashtra?
I won’t answer questions based on if’s and but’s.