Don-turned-politician Arun Gawli is keen to join hands with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray.
“I am open to an alliance with Raj, provided it should be out in the open and not be a tacit arrangement,” said Gawli while talking to HT.
With political parties gearing up for the prestigious Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, even Gawli is getting ready to try his luck. He is planning to field candidates under the banner of his political outfit, the Akhil Bhartiya Sena (ABS). And as allies, he would prefer to forge ties with the MNS
Clad in a spotless white kurta-pyjama and Gandhi cap, Gawli, 54, is careful to project a clean image. The room in his den, Dagdi Chawl, from where he gives the interview, is full of his revered gods.
Though there are more than 50 criminals cases, including extortion, are pending against him, Gawli does not want to be branded a don anymore. He keeps insisting that he be called a leader, not a gangster.
In the 2002 civic polls, Gawli’s ABS had managed to win only one of the six seats it had contested. However, he won the assembly elections from Chinchpokli constituency in south central Mumbai. Now, he has set his sights on the BMC elections — the prime battle will be between the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance and probably the Congress-NCP combine. The ABS has some presence in south central Mumbai, a predominantly Maharashtrian area full of mill labourers.
The Sena — which was on the defensive following Narayan Rane’s rebellion and defection, had even sought Gawli’s help. “But it was scuttled by media reports,” he says.
However, he will be interested in joining hands with Bal Thackeray’s rebel nephew, Raj. “He has not approached us but I have no hassles if he wants to forge an alliance with the ABS. However, it should not be a tacit understanding,” he insists.
“Raj should rule, we will support,” he declares.
Gawli’s party is keen to contest elections in Latur, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s hometown.
Considering that the civic elections may throw up a hung House, Gawli has also offered to support the mayoral candidate of any party as it will help him get work done for people in his constituency.
Gawli is not ready to say how many seats his party will contest. “If we disclose our candidates now, they will be in trouble as ruling parties in the government do not want us to grow,” he says, adding, “Don’t forget that I got 90,000 votes in the south central parliamentary constituency when I contested the Lok Sabha elections.”
“The government and every political party are trying to ensure that our strength does not grow. Like others who form new political parties, we do not have the tag of being from a political family,” he rues.