Pavan Dahat catches up with Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel on his campaign trail in Bhandara
What kind of response are you getting from the people this time?
I am getting a very positive response.
What prospects do you see for the Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra?
We will get almost the equal number of seats (25) that we won last time or more than that.
Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan told this newspaper that the trend in this election is towards the NDA. Do you agree with him?
Nationally, yes, to some extent, but it does not mean that the situation will be the same in Maharashtra.
Your opponent says that he will win because of the ‘Modi wave’. Do you see this in your constituency?
I don’t see any such thing here. My opponent [BJP’s Nana Patole] has nothing to claim of his own, so he is banking on such things.
Don’t you think the government itself gave the opposition ammunition through scams?
Rather than the scams, it was the handling of the issue. The government’s defence on many issues was probably not in conformity with the policies it pursued. But these perceptions will have an effect because the government’s reply was too little, too late.
There seems to be a generational change in your party in Maharashtra. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar has managed to establish control over NCP.
The leadership of the party has passed on from so many people. Chhagan Bhujbal was there, R.R. Patil was there, now there is Ajit Pawar. He has also waited a good 10-12 years before he achieved this position. But our main leader is only Sharad Pawar.
Ajit Pawar is our leader in the State legislature and he is an important leader at the forefront in handling the party affairs. But at the same time there are senior leaders in the party who do not have any lesser position, be it Mr. Bhujbal or Mr. Patil.
There are some dissenting voices in your party. There were also reports that Mr. Bhujbal was not ready to contest the elections
Mr. Bhujbal was asked to contest last time, but he said that he would like to contest elections this time. There are no such issues in the party and no one is unhappy.
Is Sharad Pawar stepping aside? Where do you see yourself and senior leaders like Mr. Bhujbal?
No. Where is the question of that [happening?]. I consider myself a senior leader in the forefront of our party’s affairs. It’s not something that anybody has chosen to give us. We are founder members of the party and I don’t think there is any question of our authority being undermined in the party. I don’t see anyone coming from behind and taking over our seniority.