“The people of Maharashtra should give me a chance. They have seen the rule of four parties and there is no difference between them,” said Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray while campaigning in central Maharashtra’s Latur district on Saturday.
In an interview to Hindustan Times, Thackeray said he will lead from the front if the MNS is voted to power, adding that he has created a blueprint for the state’s development and identified experts to make it happen.
What is the response to your campaign? You contested limited seats in the 2009 polls; this time you have fielded candidates statewide...
Overall, I am getting a tremendous response. People, especially youth, have been supporting us in large numbers. They are fed up with the four (major) parties, which are similar in nature and functioning. I am seeking votes for my vision for developing the state. I feel MNS will perform much better than in 2009.
You have promised a better Maharashtra through your blueprint for development, but you will need the numbers to implement it. How will you do it if you remain a fringe player?
I am confident that the people will support me. They want parivartan in the state. After more than 60 years of Independence, elections are still about roads, water and electricity. If political parties can’t fulfil these promises, then why are they in politics? It is not rocket science to provide water and electricity.
You said you will lead the government if voted to power. Are you keen on becoming chief minister?
If people give me power, I will lead from the front. For that, people should give me one chance. Things can’t be worse than what it is now in the state. Today’s voter is mature; youth lament that there is not much progress happening around them. This is all because political parties are busy with only two things - power and corruption. If people want to end this, they will bring me to power.
There are some predictions of a hung assembly and new equations may emerge after polls. In such a scenario, which party or coalition will the MNS go with?
I urge people not to vote for a coalition but for single-party rule. Any realignment of political forces will further create problems for the state. It will take Maharashtra backwards.
Aren’t you close to BJP leaders? You have been meeting BJP’s Nitin Gadkari…
Gadkari and I have been friends for 25 years. It is a personal friendship, not political. But then Gadkari and BJP are two different subjects. When he meets me as a BJP leader, we keep the friendship aside.
Rumours of your recent meeting with Gadkari created a stir…
That is wrong. I didn’t meet Gadkari in Amravati. We happened to be in the same hotel but busy with our respective campaigns. I didn’t know about our ‘meeting’ till my wife called and told me such news was appearing in the media! I meet him openly. Sometimes, if he is in Mumbai, he comes to Shivaji Park for ice-cream and calls me. Or we meet and chat at my residence. ?
You supported Modi as PM. Isn’t it logical that you join hands with the BJP?
I was clear when I announced my support to Narendra Modi. The country was in bad shape and it needed someone like him as Prime Minister. I supported Modi as a person and not as BJP leader. Now in the assembly polls, there is no question of me going with BJP.
There has been speculation that you and your cousin, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, will come together.
I am going to speak about it at my Mumbai rally. Uddhav had called to ask about my health when I was unwell. I didn’t want to speak about it earlier but spoke when he mentioned it to a TV channel.
You have been criticising the Shiv Sena, even saying Sharad Pawar was behind the split in both alliances?
About six months ago, Pawar had told a BJP leader that he would snap ties with Congress the moment BJP splits with Sena. It was being talked about. I knew about it, but strangely the Sena did not realise that the BJP wanted to dump them. Sena should have walked out of the alliance instead of waiting to be kicked out.
How do you see the Modi government’s performance in its first six months?
I can’t see anything constructive happening. Maybe it is too early to comment but I think it is time for showing some results. Too many events are happening; something constructive is needed.
Have you given up the anti-north Indian issue now since you are seeking votes on the basis of your blueprint? You have even fielded a north Indian as the MNS candidate in Kandivli…
I have fielded Akhilesh Choubey in Kandivli not because he is a north Indian. He is a Mumbaikar and has been defending our anti-migrant stand. He is my lawyer who is fighting the cases filed against me during my agitation, and is hence being rewarded with the candidature. My stand is clear. I am not against north Indians, not against those who are staying here for years and are Mumbaikars. I am against migrants who come here and take the jobs meant for locals. I am against their attitude.
What is your prediction on the outcome of the assembly polls?
I don’t think anybody can predict but I can see people are angry with the corrupt Congress-NCP government. I can also see people are unhappy with Sena-BJP because they created a situation that could be beneficial to the Congress and NCP. I want to appeal to the people that they have voted for corrupt, visionless leaders in several elections. Give me a chance and I will show what I can do. Good governance is not rocket science if you don’t want to make money out of it.