EXCLUSIVE| BJP, allies will surely repeat 2019 show in Maharashtra: Fadnavis

The BJP leader also claimed that the Shiv Sena and the NCP split up due to the 'family-first policy' of Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis.FILE Photo | PTI

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is confident that the ruling Mahayuti alliance, cobbled together after breaking the NCP and Shiv Sena, will win in all constituencies they won in 2019, if not more.

In an interview with Benn Kochuveedan, Fadnavis exuded confidence that the initial confusion in the BJP cadre about some allegedly tainted leaders joining the three-party alliance government will not affect the prospects of PM Modi returning to power. He blamed Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar for the splits in the Shiv Sena and the NCP.

Excerpts from the conversation...

With only four days left for campaigning to end for the fifth and final phase of the polls in Maharashtra, how confident are you of victory?

I am very sure about our party alliance winning all the seats that we are contesting. I am pretty confident that we’ll get at least the same number of seats (41 of 48) we had in the 2019 elections. This includes all the six seats in Mumbai. Of course, our effort is to better our tally.

There are many candidates who are considered weak in the alliance; a few of them with serious criminal cases pending against them….

Yes, there are a few weak candidates. But in the BJP and NDA, individual candidates don’t matter at all. Anyone voting for us is voting for PM Modi. Our party workers do not look at individual candidates because every vote we get is cast for the PM. Our candidates are elected only to ensure Modi’s return to power for the third time. However, every vote cast for the Opposition is for Rahul Gandhi.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis.
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What went wrong with your alliance with Shiv Sena in general and Uddhav in particular? And what about NCP?

I did not break the Sena or for that matter, the NCP. The Sena broke up because of the family-first policy that Uddhav followed. Aaditya Thackeray, despite being the junior-most MLA, was given powers to summon even the senior-most members, such as (Eknath) Shinde, who found his political career nearing an end under Udhav. Besides, the party moved away from the ideology of Balasaheb Thackeray. The Sena broke up because of the arrogance of Uddhav and the importance he gave to his family above everything else.

Nor did I break the NCP, which too split because of the family-first policy that Sharad Pawar followed. Pawar initiated many rounds of discussions with me and the BJP after the 2019 polls. But in all those conversations, I clearly understood that his main objective was to present Ajit (Pawar) as the villain of the family drama and Supriya (Sule) as the hero.

Your party is accused of using Central agencies to frame opposition leaders. Every so-called corrupt leader became clean after joining your party…

I made corruption charges against Ajit Pawar in the irrigation scam because he was the minister in-charge. But the chargesheet did not name Ajit anywhere because the probe agencies could not prove anything against him. But a few accused in the case have already been convicted and are in jail, while some others are facing trial.

Moreover, only Ashok Chavan (former Congress CM) joined our party and a case against him was filed by his own party way back in 2012.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis.
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The election season appears to have heightened the communal divide…

There are reasons to this. When Uddhav Thackeray is trying to build Muslim vote bank, it’s our duty to tell truth to people. He can also create a sense of fear among Muslims because he feels that the community is a vote bank that he can trust, as he has squandered his father’s ideology.

Do you think post-poll there could be a more cohesive alliance with the NCP and even a patch-up with Uddhav?

I used to say always that differences can be sorted out, but not the bitterness. Though in politics, one should not rule out possibilities, I don’t see any patch-up with UBT. Our ties with real ShivSena are an emotional issue, but with NCP, it’s been largely political.

Many reports have suggested that the Ram temple inauguration is not going to get you the votes this time. What’s your opinion?

The Ram Janmabhoomi was never a political issue for BJP, but always a question of sentiment. With the temple in place there, people can now, without being branded communal, go there or any other place of worship and still be politically relevant.

PM Modi has repeatedly asked voters not to vote for Congress because if the party comes to power, it would ensure Ram temple is locked. Is it not seeking votes in the name of Ram? Please look at the context in which the Prime Minister has said so. It’s not the way you are asking.

You have been in power for over two years, but despite the ‘double-engine’ government, Maharashtra has been losing foreign investment…

Maharashtra was on top in FDI during 2014–19. During the UBT regime, Maharashtra was lagging in FDI. On the very first day, we told that Maharashtra will be the number one destination again. And in the last two years, Maharashtra is again on top. Maharashtra received more FDI than the total of Gujarat, Karnataka and Delhi.

In fact, Uddhav is responsible for Marathis going out of the state and Mumbai. Name a single major project that he initiated. None at all. Uddhav has been exploiting the Marathi sentiment for his political gains. The biggest infrastructure projects in the city, be it the coastal road or trans-harbour link, were completed by us.

Will we see you here after the elections if Modi wins a third term or will you be moving to Delhi?

In our party, such decisions are taken by the central leadership.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis.
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