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‘We are in a good position to win LS, Assembly polls’

first_imgReturning to power in the State after a gap of 15 years in 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Maharashtra administration completes four years in office today. While the party is gearing up for next year’s Assembly and general elections by striving to retain blow-hot, blow-cold ally Shiv Sena on its side, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis exudes confidence that the BJP will come back to power, irrespective of whether the Assemly elections are held in tandem with the Lok Sabha polls or not. He also speaks about the emerging political equations in the State and his government’s performance in an interview with The Hindu. Edited excerpts:What would you consider the key milestone of your government in last four years?The Jalyukta Shivar movement is one remarkable project that we initiated. This has actually become a people’s movement and the credit goes to people, not the government. Today, we can say with surety that this has led to a 45% increase in the State’s farm production. Maharashtra’s irrigation sector, that was marred by allegations of massive corruption, has seen a clean-up. What is going to be your priority in this election year?We have undertaken a number of infrastructure projects of roads, metros, bridges and housing. All these projects are at different stages. Our priority is to complete them. But above all, the first quarter of 2019 is going to be busy in tackling the drought that is now looming large. We are following the Centre’s manual on drought. We have already announced a drought-like situation and it is being validated by the Centre.Before 2014, you criticised the State government for financial indiscipline. But even today, the government is always found struggling on big ticket expenditure items such as implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission or reducing taxes on fuel…In the last four years, we increased expenditure on every government scheme, and made huge off-budget investments such as the Metro, Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi highway, railway projects through Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs). Despite all this, the overall budget has been balanced. We are a developing State and cannot be a profit-making one. We have limited resources and it is important to deploy them correctly. Despite all odds, we became a ₹2,000 crore revenue surplus State after 15 years. We are the best State in the country in terms of financial health.Despite all your claims, your party seems to be losing the perception battle among people. Have the trappings of power affected leaders or have they become too lazy to approach people?Not really. (It is) the Opposition (that) is in a desperate position right now. They spread lies. They are not answerable for any of their lies, but we are left with (providing) explanations. We were (also) using social media (in the Opposition), but now it is being misused. When there is no credibility, you can spread as many lies as possible. But people who are being benefited are with us and they will stand with our agenda of development.In the Opposition, you had alleged previous ministers of being complicit in the corruption in the irrigation department. But you could not put any of them in jail in last four years, so have you not found any scam there?The scam that we alleged exists. It has been proven. FIRs have been filed, charges heets prepared and action has been taken. It proves there was widespread corruption. Eventually, the involvement of the minister (Ajit Pawar) will also be exposed. Looking at the scale of the irrigation scam, there can only be two conclusions. Either the minister is involved or he is incompetent so could not realise the scam (in his department). The verdict will prove whether he is guilty or incompetent, the courts will decide that.You claim to have achieved so much in four years, but your ally Shiv Sena does not seem to think so. Do they trouble you with decision making?Never. We have taken all the decisions unanimously in the last four years. Wherever we had two opinions, we stopped, discussed and found a way out. We are two different parties and we cannot have similar goals or policies. There is difference of opinion but not different ideology.Do you see Uddhav Thackeray raking up the Ram temple issue as the first step in setting the stage for an electoral alliance? We welcome him raising this issue. We have been constantly raising this issue for many years now. It will be only beneficial, if Shiv Sena now wants to join in. He (Mr Thackeray) is going to Ayodhya and we will be welcoming him on his return for sure.Are you confident of winning the next polls? Yes. We did an overall survey and we are in a good position to win both Lok Sabha and State elections. We will be number one.In a bid to retain your current alliance, will you be ready to give the CM’s post to the Shiv Sena?Every party wants to win the CM’s post, but political reality decides the outcome. And in any election, the party which wins highest seats gets the post. Last time (in 1995), they had won more MLAs. This time, we did. Any party which will have the highest number of MLAs will get the CM’s post. I think we and the Sena will contest both the polls together.Despite your claims of several Congress and NCP leaders being in touch with you, your own party has lost two leaders from the Vidarbha region to the Congress?Those two (Nana Patole and Ashish Deshmukh) had, anyway, come to us on rent. We will be paying them back with interest. The Congress and NCP will go helter-skelter when we decide to start taking in their leaders.Will the general and Assembly elections be held simultaneously?No. Delhi has left it upon us to decide whether we want both the polls together or not. But we will surely have an alliance with the Sena in both the elections. There is no problem in Lok Sabha seat sharing, and problems in Assembly seat sharing will be solved. Political problems will have political solutions. There is no deadline (for negotiations) till the communication line is dead. Hindutva has been the bonding agent between us and since Mr. Thackeray has shifted back to it, this is good for us.But even the Opposition parties are tilting towards Hindutva, by visiting temples and offering prayers…They have realised that abusing Hindus and misleading minorities will not give them votes. They would have to show that they are representatives of Hindus and should do work for minorities. In his temple visits, Rahul Gandhi should seek a stable government in the country. That will keep Narendra Modi as our PM for the next 10 years. In the last four years, you seem to be overshadowing your ministers. Do you think they are not competent enough?A Government is a team effort and all my colleagues are doing great work. Unlike the last government, we have no infighting. Because of that, certain rumours like these are being spread.What is holding you back from a cabinet expansion which has been on the cards for two years now? Will Eknath Khadse be brought back?There are joint reasons, both from Delhi and the State, which is holding back the expansion. It will happen, hopefully, before this winter session. I cannot comment on who will come in and go out. But Eknath Khadse is our senior leader and a decision would be taken soon. The Maratha and Dhangar reservation issues are pending even after four years.We will ensure Maratha reservation. A TISS report on Dhangar reservation is not adverse, but the decision will be taken by the Central government.Recently, you arrested several activists terming them as ‘urban Maoists.’ Many of them were arrested earlier as well, but acquitted later. Why arrest them again?Earlier, the government could not gather evidence. We have collected huge evidence that will prove our point. Pseudo liberals may want to allege us as anti-democracy, but Supreme Court sided with us. Had we not given any evidence, the Court wouldn’t have supported our claim. What they did was not (about) the Right to Speech, but a plan to pit two communities against each other.last_img

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