Devendra Fadnavis, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Maharashtra chief, has been a prominent figure in the party’s dealings with the Shiv Sena, both before and after his party severed ties with the latter after 25 years .
In an interview to Hindustan Times, Fadnavis said the time had come for the Shiv Sena to decide who it’s fighting against. He reiterated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that his state unit would not criticise its former ally as a mark of respect for the late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
However, Fadnavis added that the BJP would be aggressive whenever the Sena chose to wrongfully attach blame to them.
You accused some people of extortion with regard to Shiv Jayanti celebrations. Were you alluding to the Shiv Sena when you said this?
I did not name any party or person. I questioned the mentality of people who could be from any party. It is not proper.
You are among the leaders accused of breaking ties with the Sena. Did you not want the alliance to stay?
I don’t want to further comment on the issue. We all know what happened. Now, our priority is to win all the seats that we and our allies are contesting. For us, allies are equally important. I think it’s time the Sena decided who it is fighting against. Criticising Modi will do them no good. They should remember what happened to (Aam Aadmi Party chief) Arvind Kejriwal, who went after Mr. Modi in the Lok Sabha polls instead of attacking the UPA government.
Voters have divided loyalties now with the split in alliances. Why would they vote for the BJP?
The people want us in the government, mainly because of Narendra Modi’s vision. He has clearly explained in his six rallies what he plans to do for the state. As he continues to tour and hold rallies in the state, we will further consolidate our support base. People are fed up with coalition governments because they did not work for them in the past 15 years.
Modi is the face of the BJP. Why haven’t you projected a face from the state? People say you are among the CM aspirants…
The BJP has never projected a face in the state elections. Modi is our face because people have voted for him as Prime Minister. He is beyond caste, creed and religion. People know that and hence they will vote for him. As far as the chief minister’s post is concerned, the party will take a call after the elections.
Apart from Modi, what other factors will get you adequate numbers to form the government?
Our strike rate has been much better than our allies in recent years. The Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and all other parties know this. Our chances are even better this time because we are contesting all 288 seats (allies included). We have strong cadre working at every polling booth in the state. They helped our allies win too. During the Lok Sabha polls, there were instances when voters returned from the polling booths as there was no BJP candidate. Our cadre explained to them that the party with a different symbol was our ally and that they should vote for them. Mumbai was no exception to this phenomenon.
Do you have any plan in place for the future of the state?
Yes, we will change governance. The state government should be an efficient service provider. The people are angry because of corruption at every level. They need to shell out money to make things happen. We will enact a law to ensure people’s right to services. No government official can deny services to the people. We will make all services transparent and available online. Most importantly, we will de-commercialise private education. Despite the apex court’s recommendations in this regard, the Congress-NCP government did not implement it because their leaders own these private institutions. We will focus more on the practical applications of education so that students acquire skills and get good jobs.