Eknath Shinde interview | ‘Our candidates are very good, and we have good coordination among allies’

The Maharashtra Chief Minister says industry was spooked after a bomb was placed outside Mukesh Ambani’s home during previous MVA regime’s tenure; adds that Uddhav Thackeray’s betrayal of Shiv Sena ideology will not win him sympathy

Updated - May 02, 2024 12:29 am IST

Published - May 01, 2024 06:46 pm IST

 Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde attends a Shiv Sena workers meeting in Nagpur on April 7, 2024.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde attends a Shiv Sena workers meeting in Nagpur on April 7, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

The two-year-old Mahayuti government in Maharashtra has done much to restore industry confidence in the commercial city of Mumbai, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said on May 1, asserting that the record of the NDA governments at the State and the Centre would be enough for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to secure a third term.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, Mr. Shinde squarely blamed the attitude of the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government for industry getting spooked, especially after a bomb was found outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence three years ago.

“If bombs are placed outside the residence of an industrialist or a morcha is taken out against him or her, why would industrialists not fear to be here? But that was under the MVA government and we have done much to restore the faith of industry as no one can dare to carry out such acts; law and order is restored; incentives are being given to industry,” he said.

Mr. Shinde said the NDA is in prime position to win and that the work of the Mahayuti government has been exemplary. he added that there are no differences between his Sena faction and BJP, but the Opposition MVA is facing rebel candidates in various seats.

Excerpts:

The Maharashtra election is being seen as the most challenging for the NDA among all States.

Not at all, we are in prime position, we are winning all five seats in the first phase. In the last two years, the kind of work that our Mahayuti government has done in reviving projects like the Metro, the Nagpur-Mumbai Samriddhi Express, the Atal Setu, the Jalyukta Shivir, has been exemplary, especially looking at how all work was at a stop under the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government. The work done by Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi in his 10 years at the helm was not seen before, even [during] sixty years under the Congress. The people are clear that Prime Minister Modi will be re-elected for a third term.

Politically, however, there have been unprecedented political alliances in Maharashtra that confuse the situation.

It is true that nobody could have dreamt before 2019 that the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and Congress could come together. The ideology of our leader, late Balasaheb Thackeray, was against the Congress ideology, and he had even said that if it ever came to a time that our party would move towards the Congress, I would disband the party itself. But the opposite happened, and the Shiv Sena (UBT) formed a government with them, only with the aim of [Uddhav Thackeray] becoming Chief Minister, and solely for the purpose of fulfilling a personal ambition.

But your splitting the party has also elicited sympathy for Uddhav Thackeray…

Is betraying your party colleagues and abandoning your ideology going to elicit sympathy from the people? The way Shiv Sena (UBT) completely gave up the ideology of Balasaheb Thackeray ji, to give up Hindutva, will this not be seen by the people as a betrayal? What is the Shiv Sena’s ideology as enunciated by Balasaheb Thackeray ji? It is Hindutva, 80% social work, 20% politics, which has now been forgotten by the Shiv Sena (UBT), so how will they gain people’s sympathy? People want development, and you [referring to Uddhav Thackeray] ran the government, or tried to, from home. Who will people vote for, those who work or those who sit at home?

It was suggested that the MVA would have more trouble finalising its list, but it is the Mahayuti list that has been delayed.

Only where the chances of victory are high are there competitive claims. Our candidates are very good and we have good coordination among our allies. Look at the MVA; despite early declaration, there are many rebel candidates in different seats.

It appears that the addition of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP-Ajit Pawar faction) has lessened the BJP’s dependence on your party.

Look, we have an ideological alliance; the Shiv Sena and the BJP are both committed to the same ideals, and our alliance is more than a quarter of a century old. Ajit Pawar ji also saw Prime Minister Modi’s work and came over to our side. There is something to be said for political adjustment, and Shiv Sena and BJP have no differences.

Mumbai is India’s premier commercial city but the industry was spooked because of certain incidents like the presence of a bomb outside a prominent industrialist’s house. Has any outreach been made to improve the mood of the industry?

It is true. If bombs are placed outside the residence of an industrialist or a morcha is taken out against him/her, why would industrialists not fear to be here? But that was under the MVA government, and we have done much to restore the faith of industry as no one can dare to carry out such acts; law and order is restored; incentives are being given to industry. We have huge potential and connectivity for industry to thrive.

But Foxconn-Vedanta went out of Maharashtra under your regime…

That happened when we had barely been two months into government. You need more time than that to prepare. But in the last two years, we have signed MoUs w/;orth ₹5 lakh crores in two [World Economic Forums in] Davos. Industry is coming to Maharashtra, as they have an assurance that they will be welcomed and treated well. Till now, Mumbai, which is an international city, has been ridden with potholes and bad roads. Something that is basic, good roads, was neglected, but we have started repair works, and within two years, I promise, Mumbai roads will be pothole free. I have myself gone every week to the deep clean drives initiated in Mumbai. As I said earlier, we have worked on a war footing with regard to completing infrastructure projects. That is the attitude we take to making Mumbai and the rest of the State industry friendly.

The knotty question of Maratha reservations hovers over the polls, with some in your alliance also worried that the OBC share of the pie may shrink if Marathas are given reservations.

As a government, I and both the Deputy Chief Mhinisters (Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar) are committed to providing reservations for Marathas and we have cleared the way for 10% reservations by calling a special session of the Assembly as well. Providing Kunbi certificates was also done, without doing anything to harm the interests of OBC groups. Now some people, who had never provided this reservation when they had the chance, and only did politics in the name of Marathas, have gone to court. We, on our part, have given the reservations and the courts have not granted any stay on that till now. This has all been done without hurting the interest of any other groups; we want the support of all groups — Maratha, OBC, SC/ST, Dhangar, minorities — who all live in Maharashtra.

Keeping on the topic of reservations, it’s being said that the BJP’s slogan of “400 paar” is raising fears that such a majority will be used to do away with reservations and therefore there is low polling as well.

This is all Opposition propaganda. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it very clear that reservations are here to stay. As for low polling, there is a heat wave on as well. Despite that, polling hasn’t gone below 50% in any State so far. Rahul Gandhi is a fine one to talk of low polling when he takes off for cooler climes as soon as the heat hits.

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