‘Credit for split’ in Shiv Sena and NCP should be given to Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar, says Fadnavis

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and BJP senior leader Devendra Fadnavis said that Chief Minister Eknath Shinde would not have rebelled, but when someone was pushed to the wall, they’re left with no other option, and that is what happened in Mr. Shinde’s case.

Updated - May 13, 2024 04:24 pm IST

Published - May 13, 2024 08:58 am IST - Mumbai

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and BJP Leader Devendra Fadnavis during an interview at his official residence in Mumbai on Sunday, May 12, 2024.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and BJP Leader Devendra Fadnavis during an interview at his official residence in Mumbai on Sunday, May 12, 2024. | Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

In a no-holds-barred conversation with The Hindu, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and BJP senior leader Devendra Fadnavis said if credit is due to anyone for the split in the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party, it should be given to the leaders of the respective parties— Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar.

When asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claims in his speeches that businessmen Adani and Ambani are funding the Congress, the BJP leader said: “Perhaps they might have given them (money), which is what he is saying…” 

Here are the excerpts from the interview.

The BJP claims they have a panna pramukh (representative for all voters mentioned on each page of the electoral list) in each ward, but why was there a low voter turnout?

An unnecessary narrative has been circulating suggesting a low voter turnout. However, in the majority of constituencies, the turnout matches or exceeds that of the 2019 General Election. The high temperatures this time have led to people voting primarily in the morning and after 4 p.m., resulting in deserted polling stations during the afternoon. The final voting percentage will be announced the next day, so claims of low turnout are unfounded. Furthermore, there is no discrepancy in the final figures provided by the Election Commission of India. Each political party receives a certificate on the same day, enabling them to verify the numbers.

How do you interpret PM Modi’s claims in his speeches that Adani and Ambani are funding Congress, especially considering the reported closeness between them and your party leader?

Perhaps they might have given them (money), which is what he is saying… All businessmen in this country are regarded equally by the BJP. There is no question of personal relationships. Our goal is to foster a conducive business environment and uphold good practices. If any wrongdoing occurs, we must speak out. Interestingly, Rahul Gandhi ceased his criticisms of Adani and Ambani until Modiji challenged his silence, prompting him to renew his attacks. His mouth was shut. No Adani or Ambani. What was the deal? This has led to public speculation about his motives. 

If they have indeed begun funding the Congress, do you believe the political landscape is shifting in favour of the Congress?

Businessmen often support various parties. This was evident from the substantial amount of money routed through electoral bonds to other political parties. 

More than half of the State had already voted. Has the public response changed now compared to the 2014 and 2019 elections?

So far, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has addressed 13 poll rallies, and he will address two more in the coming days. All the rallies have been frenzied and are receiving immense responses compared to 2014 and 2019. However, simultaneously, the voices of voters, which were clearly heard before, are not as audible this time because many have become our traditional voters and are remaining silent. 

The number of rallies PM Modi is addressing in Maharashtra is unprecedented. What does it indicate?

Last time there were 12 rallies, and now there are 15. We’ve requested him to address rallies in constituencies where our alliance candidates are also contesting. Essentially, it’s a straightforward political strategy: we’re maintaining unity as a party and transferring our voter base. However, if candidates are from Shiv Sena and Shiv Sena (UBT) or NCP and NCP (SP), there might be a split in votes, so it wouldn’t be accurate to claim a 100% vote transfer to us. Hence, if there’s any gap, it needs to be addressed, and that’s why he’s campaigning. We’ve ramped up our campaign efforts for our alliance partners.

Do Muslims attend your rallies even though you start and end them with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants? 

Absolutely, they come wearing skull caps and burqas. What’s the issue with saying ‘Jai Shri Ram’? Lord Ram is a cultural icon in this country. He is a deity for us, but even for those who may not see him as a divine figure, the principles he embodies as Maryada Purushottam are universally admirable. If Muslims in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand can appreciate Lord Rama, why should it be any different in India?

Ten years is a long period for the build-up of the anti-incumbency. You changed several candidates. Do you feel that anti-incumbency factor when you’re campaigning or interacting with people?

As far as the government is concerned, there’s not an anti-incumbency sentiment; rather, it’s pro-incumbency. While there might be exceptions with a few candidates, overall, there’s support for Mr. Modi. However, we encountered instances where people expressed support for Mr. Modi but had reservations about specific candidates due to anti-incumbency. We’ve encountered and learned from such situations, It could happen. Even prominent leaders faced anti-incumbency challenges.

What about candidates from your alliance partner?

We cannot dictate to them who their candidate should be, just as they cannot dictate to us. While there is always room for friendly advice, they cannot determine our candidate, nor can I for theirs. They have finalised their candidates, and the correctness of their decisions can only be assessed after the results are out. We have extended our full support to them. It’s natural that no one is entirely content with seat-sharing arrangements. We too felt we should have received 30 seats, but we settled for 28. While we are not entirely satisfied, we are also not disheartened.

Do you think the split in Shiv Sena and NCP is impacting the polls, as voters are widely discussing it and blaming the BJP for the split? On the ground, your party is under fire. 

Only interested parties— supporters of the erstwhile Shiv Sena or Sharad Pawar loyalists— are creating this narrative. Common people understand that we did not initiate it. It was started by Uddhav Thackeray. He won the polls in alliance with us and later betrayed us. The truth is, if credit is due to anyone, it should be given to the leaders (Mr. Thackeray and Mr. Pawar) of the respective parties. Knowing him personally, I can say Mr. Shinde would never have rebelled. When you’re pushed to the wall, you’re left with no other option, and that is what happened with him. Mr. Shinde played a key role in the 2019 Assembly elections, and legislators started approaching him since the CM (Mr. Thackeray) was not accessible. Uddhav ji feared that another Narayan Rane (Union Minister) was emerging within his ranks, so he wanted to nip it in the bud. The same happened with Ajit Pawar, who was made out to be the villain because the hero (Supriya Sule) needed to be visible. Pawar saab wanted to hand the party over to Supriya tai, so unless Ajit Pawar was portrayed as the villain, Supriya tai would not emerge as the hero. We simply aligned with them, and taking Mr. Shinde was unquestioned because we share the same ideology. We won the elections together as allies. Our vote share and mandate were unified. 

PM Modi suggested the Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP (SP) join hands with Mr. Shinde and Mr. Ajit Pawar after the Lok Sabha polls instead of merging with the Congress…

It was not an offer, but absolute sarcasm citing that Congress is a shrinking ship, and instead of going with them, join hands with Mr. Shinde and Ajit dada

You’re facing criticism for aligning yourself with two influential communities, OBCs and Marathas at the same time, based on your caste background as a member of a micro-minority community. Do you believe it was appropriate for you to assume this role?

Presently, both OBCs and Marathas are supporting us. Certain leaders, aiming to sustain themselves politically by stoking communal tensions, are resorting to this tactic. Only the election results will provide clarity on this matter. In some constituencies, there exists a significant rift between Marathas and OBCs. While elections will come and go, the scars of such divisions will linger, posing a threat to the social fabric of Maharashtra.

Whenever there’s a division between OBCs and Marathas, the ruling party often receives blame. Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil has specifically mentioned your name in this context and holds you responsible...

Mr. Jarange-Patil has publicly stated that he will not campaign for any political party and asserts that he has no political affiliations. We are watching the situation closely, and it will become clear whether he remains unaligned or truly neutral.

You say Kunbi and Marathas strongly with you as they are nationalists and believe in Lord Ram. What about Muslims and Dalits, as a narrative has been set that the BJP will change the Constitution?

Fortunately, now the Dalit community has a high level of education, making them well-informed about the Constitution’s basic structure, which cannot be amended. They understand that this is an outdated narrative and no longer holds any appeal.

The overall population of Muslims is around 14 % in the country and about 11 % in Maharashtra. Don’t the BJP feel the need for them?

I have a question. Congress needs them, right? Then why didn’t they allocate a single seat to Muslim candidates in major states? What does that signify? It seems they want to use Muslims merely as a vote bank without offering them actual representation. We object to this. Some argue that Muslims should have the first claim on the country’s resources. We disagree with that perspective. We believe that the first claim should belong to the poor, regardless of their caste, religion, or language. For example, under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and other government schemes, the Muslim community has benefitted significantly. This isn’t about exclusion; it’s about inclusion and breaking the myth of appeasement. Our guiding principle is ‘Justice for All - Appeasement of None.’ Regarding the issue of reservations, they are intended for those facing discrimination. Islam teaches that ‘We are all one,’ indicating that there isn’t social backwardness within the community. If there are educational or economic challenges, the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category is available to them. The Prime Minister is addressing these issues head-on, highlighting how Congress has handled them, without concern for political fallout.

Numerous positive aspects of the current government are being highlighted during the election discussions. What negative factors have you encountered, and why should someone refrain from voting for the BJP?

The BJP stands firmly against false narratives rather than aligning with the opposition. Personally, I haven’t encountered any significant issues. There may be localised concerns, such as water scarcity in certain areas, which are not uncommon during elections.

Some candidates from your party in Mumbai are expressing concerns about a narrative of Marathi versus Gujarati causing difficulties for them. How do you respond to this?

I disagree with that assertion because the fabricated narrative has already been debunked. Uddhav Thackeray cannot seek votes based on development, especially as allegations of corruption against them are coming to light. Over the past 25 years, he has failed to provide significant benefits to Mumbai. So, they can’t speak beyond “Gujaratis are suppressing Marathis” or suggesting that Mumbai would be separated from Maharashtra.

Over time, a personality cult has formed around figures like Mr. Modi, Yogi Adityanath or Himanta Biswa Sarma. Do you think overdependence on a few individuals will hurt the party electorally over time? 

Not at all. In the BJP, leadership is not about personality cults; it’s a continuous cycle. Leaders emerge, contribute, and make way for the next generation. We’ve seen concerns about the party’s future during the eras of Atalji, Advaniji. During (Gopinath) Munde and (Pramod) Mahajan we felt what would happen. But then leaders like (Nitin) Gadkari and Fadnavis stepped up. There’s always a new wave of leadership ready to carry forward the party’s legacy, so the focus remains on the party’s principles rather than individual personas.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.