Modi uses his OBC background only for elections: Nana Patole

“When the Prime Minister said that he came from a ‘Nichi Jati’ (lower caste) which was why he was being hounded, I was furious. When I was demanding a separate ministry for the OBCs, it was Mr.Modi who had shouted at me and questioned its need saying that the OBC’s don’t need it.,” says Nana Patole.

December 09, 2017 12:49 pm | Updated 05:09 pm IST - Nagpur

 File photo: Former BJP MP Nana Patole talks to The Hindu in Nagpur, Maharashtra.

File photo: Former BJP MP Nana Patole talks to The Hindu in Nagpur, Maharashtra.

The dissident Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nana Patole who was a member of parliament representing the Gondia-Bhandara constituency in Maharashtra, resigned on Friday. Following his resignation, he has questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Other Backward Caste (OBC) credentials, and claimed the party has done nothing for the benefit of the community other than drum up support for garnering votes by projecting Mr.Modi’s caste status.

Speaking to The Hindu in an exclusive interview, Mr.Patole said that he would be campaigning against the BJP in Gujarat elections.

Full text of the interview.

Why did you quit the BJP and resign as an MP?

The Maharashtra BJP government and central BJP government made many promises during the election campaigns to get elected, but after getting elected they repeatedly ignored those promises. Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Yavatmal district in the farmers-suicide-prone Vidarbha region (during 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign) for his ‘Chai pe Charcha’ and promised the farmers there that if his government came to power, he would implement the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation, and would give one and half times the going rate for the farmers’ crops.

They came to power by making wholesale promises, but they cheated the farmers immediately after the elections by filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court that they would not implement the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations. The rate of farmers’ suicide has increased by 34% in last three years. I had been repeatedly raising these issues in the Lok Sabha and at party forums. There was a meeting regarding the farmers’ problems at the Prime Minister’s residence during last year’s winter session of parliament.

I raised some questions about the farmers’ issues during this meeting but the Prime Minister got angry with me. When I raised issues about the socio-economic and educational problems of the OBCs, the PM was again annoyed with me. That was a trigger somewhere (for quitting the party). I was repeatedly raising issues such as the fishermen’s issues, the closure of industries, the bad impact of the demonetization and the GST. The government did not act on all these issues.

The BJP had promised that the central government will provide employment to two crore people in the country and create five lakh jobs in the state (Maharashtra). However, instead of providing employment or business opportunities, they have snatched common people’s employment. When I tried to raise these issues with the Prime Minister and Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) personally, they did not even grant me an audience. They instead called me a rebel and tried to make fun of me. They even told the BJP workers in my Lok Sabha constituency to boycott my programs. Their behavior made me realize that they do not want a person who raises common people’s issues. Yesterday, when I had no options left, I submitted my resignation.

Why did you take so long to resign? You had been openly critical of the BJP and PM for months now.

I kept giving letters to them (PM and CM) and sought their time for meeting to sort out these issues. But nothing happened. However, the day before yesterday when the Prime Minister said that he came from a ‘Nichi Jati’ (lower caste) which why he was being hounded, I was furious. When I was demanding a separate ministry for the OBCs, it was Mr.Modi who had shouted at me and questioned its need saying that the OBC’s don’t need it. I also come from a backward caste but when I raised the issues of my people, you shout at me. But you go in the election and flaunt your OBC background. What have you done for the OBCs? They are still away from progress. All these developments made resign now. Now, I have doubts if Prime Minister Modi is really an OBC. If he had been a genuine OBC, he would not have shouted at me for raising the issues of the OBCs. He would have supported those demands and worked for the OBCs.

Are you saying that the Modi government is neglecting the OBCs?

Yes, absolutely. In last three years, the OBC students have not been given scholarships. They are still lagging behind in social- cultural and educational development. The PM claims to belong to the backward community but he hasn’t done anything for them. They are making poor farmers’ family members stand in the queue for loan waiver but providing big waivers to big business houses. They allow Vijay Mallya to escape but put OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal behind the bars. If the PM comes from the OBC community then why did he jail an OBC leader like Bhujbal? Why is he being singled out?

You have been in touch with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and some Congress leaders....

I had been in touch with Uddhav Thackeray, Ashok Chavan (Maharashtra Congress president) and I also spoke to Rahul Gandhi over the phone. I told them about how many farmers and farm laborers have died in Maharashtra due to pesticides. The Maharashtra government showed the forensic laboratory report and claimed that these farmers died because of liquor consumption and not due to pesticides. This is rubbing salt on the wounds of the family members of these deceased farmers and farm laborers.

It’s not an allegation that the Modi and Fadnavis governments are anti-farmers, it is a fact. I went and met these families. I realized that I alone could not exert much pressure on the government so I decided to form a group of politicians who can force the government to act which is why I met Uddhav Thackeray. There was no political motive behind my meeting with him. I also demanded support from Mr.Chavan and Rahul Gandhi. The Bt cotton seed producing companies claim that the Bt cotton is pest resistance then what is Bollworm? Defective seeds and banned pesticides are being sold all over the country. I was demanding a law to protect the farmers.

What are your future plans?

I am going to Ahmadabad on December 11. After Gujarat elections, I will go back to my constituency and travel in the state. After speaking to the people, I will decide whether to join any party or to form my own political outfit. My workers, and the common people are supporting me.

Will you contest the by-elections (In Gondia-Bhandara)? You had defeated the NCP leader Praful Patel in 2014 but you might face him again in by-elections.

Mr.Praful Patel’s tenure as the aviation minister saw many aviation scandals. Now, it is being said that he is hobnobbing with the BJP. Is he inclined towards the BJP or it is his necessity to do so? Praful Patel is never a subject matter for me as I have defeated in a direct election. I don’t care if the BJP gives him a ticket (from Bhandara-Gondia) or not. The PM said he will jail all the corrupt people. How many corrupt people have been put behind bars? You legalized the black money of corrupt people through demonetization. I am ready for a fight now.

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