INTERVIEW | Maharashtra 2019

Our job is to give voice to the aspirations of the people: Aaditya Thackeray

Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray addresses an election meeting in Maharashtra’s Nashik district on October 10, 2019.

Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray addresses an election meeting in Maharashtra’s Nashik district on October 10, 2019.   | Photo Credit: PTI

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₹10 meal promise not populist, says Shiv Sena youth wing president.

The Shiv Sena, at its election meetings in Maharashtra, has promised meals at ₹10, but states that it’s not a sudden turn to populism but a revival of an old plank. Speaking to The Hindu, the party’s youth wing president Aaditya Thackeray said that his party was “not emulating the AIADMK” or other such parties, rather, “it was my grandfather (Balasaheb Thackeray) who started the one rupee Zunka Bakhar kendras in Mumbai, which we are taking forward.”

“It’s not just about Mumbai, but across Maharashtra the biggest issue is about food being reached to people, affordable food which is of good quality. For that to happen, there need to be these bhojanalayas [around 1000 or so] across the State, with the help of women’s self-help groups and centralised kitchens,” he said. He also spoke on his opposition to the felling of trees at Aarey and why the government action could not be stopped despite his party being part of the Maharashtra government.

“When you are half the size of your coalition partner there are some things you can pull through, [in] some things numbers get in the way.” He did not rule out joining the government.

Full text of the interview in which Mr. Thackeray speaks on the Assembly polls, his decision to contest and the party’s future:

You are the first Thackeray in three generations to decide to contest polls. What was behind this decision?

Politics is a field where you can make a big impactful contribution, wherever in the world you may be. I have seen my grandfather and father work, toured with them since I was 5-6 years old, just out of interest.

But obviously being close to Sena leaders, seeing how a legislative House functions, how Bills are passed, I always felt that I could contribute more through the legislative process. You have different kinds of personalities. My grandfather and father could work outside the legislative process, I found that I was interested in the legislative process.

For example, in the past two years I was involved with the framing and writing out of a Bill on the ban on plastic. Our law has been taken up by the Centre. If you are part of the process of legislation so directly, you can contribute to the fullest.

You could have chosen to contest from a rural seat, why Worli?

We had almost shortlisted a rural constituency because the scope of working there is much but my habit is to keep a close eye on whatever I'm working on, and Worli is just five minutes away from here (Matoshree), so I can virtually visit there everyday. Plus, one of the more important reasons was that Worli is a seat which gives a sense of Maharashtra in miniature. You have all religions, regions, you have large populations of Marathis and other communities, there are slums, highrises, BDD chawls, places not developed for 18-20 years stuck in litigation stuck in government files.

Your 10 promises including a ₹10 meal is being seen as your going down the populist route, a la AIADMK, etc.

We are not emulating the AIADMK, rather it was my grandfather (Balasaheb Thackeray) who started the one rupee Zunka Bakhar kendras in Mumbai, which we are taking forward. It’s not just about Mumbai, but across Maharashtra the biggest issue is about food being reached to people, affordable food which is of good quality. For that to happen there need to be these bhojanalayas (around 1000 or so) across the State, with the help of women’s self-help groups and centralised kitchens.

On the Aarey issue, your stance led to accusations of shadow boxing, of opposing a decision of a government you are part of?

From shadow boxing one needs to get into the ring at some point and for that we need more numbers. When you are half the size of your coalition partner there are some things you can pull through, some things numbers get in the way. On the question of Aarey, it’s not BJP Vs Sena, but a question of human beings and this city. We are not against the Metro, in fact this very phase 3 of the metro has resulted in a loss of 3000 trees, which have been transplanted elsewhere. But the Aarey area is a whole eco system, it is the flood plain for the Mithi, and floods could adversely impact the surrounding areas of Kalina, Kurla etc. You have a leopardess there called Luna, her nine cubs, a rusty spotted cat which is endangered, there are many endemic species at Aarey, and this metro line has been extended by a kilometre for no reason, there are many alternative places where the car shed can be located. Mumbai and Los Angeles are the only cities in the world which have forest areas within city limits.

These elections are being termed as one crucial to the Sena’s survival and relevance. Why didn’t you stick to your point on equal share of seats?

That’s been said about us since the Mumbai municipal polls of 1997. Finally this proves our commitment on issues more than the fruits of government, for example we wanted the removal of Article 370, we want a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, we want a strong government at the Centre that speaks to the world about India. Yes there will be differences on some issues, but the fact that we did not allow too much bittereness on the question of seats, etc. only proves our commitment to the alliance and on issues we have commonly taken up with the BJP.

What is the most important piece of advice from your grandfather Balasaheb Thackeray on the question of politics that you recall?

He never advised me to get into politics, but when he saw that I had gotten into it, the only thing he told me was to never be arrogant.

Never start believing that you are someone because of something that you have done on your own, it’s always because of the people who demonstrate their support to you.

My team is free to criticise and point out where I might be going wrong, which keeps me grounded.

These elections also mark a paradigm shift for the Sena in terms of its messaging. Which model do you want the party to follow at this cusp?

If you look at the party through the 1960s to the 90s we have given voice to the people, and the message has always been relevant to the times.

Our job is to give voice to the aspirations of the people. I look at the model of the New Labour (under Tony Blair). We do have Hindutva and rights of the locals which is dear to us, and we carry it wherever we go. In Punjab we will speak of Punjabis, in Rajasthan about Rajasthanis, but we also should reflect what is of current relevance like rural issues, safety of women. For example one of the schemes we will launch is 2500 buses for school children so that there is safety. We are also one of the few parties speaking about providing sanitary pads to girls in schools.

But isn’t identity politics central to the Sena?

Where would you place us? Yes, we are Right wing about Hindutva, sons of the soil, in attracting industry to our State. We are also Centrist on a large number of issues, when we speak against lynching, when we speak against interference in what you eat or wear, while we are Leftist where it comes to labour unions. We represent the unions of most hotels, airlines, even schools and colleges. We are therefore more flexible about issues. If someone comes to us with an issue we will not see who that person is, where he/she belongs to.

But Sainiks used to actively disrupt Valentine’s Day etc...

That was more than 15 years ago. It won’t happen now.

What about moves like a countrywide National Register of Citizens being mooted by Home Minister Amit Shah

We are against illegal immigrants, when the carrying capacity of our cities has broken down. But it has to be done sensitively.

Finally, will you be joining the government after the polls?

Currently my focus is on winning as many seats as possible in this election. I will decide after the polls, taking into account the political situation.

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Printable version | Nov 22, 2019 8:44:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/maharashtra-assembly/our-job-is-to-give-voice-to-the-aspirations-of-the-people-aaditya-thackeray/article29660714.ece

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