Expressing confidence that the BJP will sweep the elections, senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde has predicted the Modi wave will wipe out the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) from the state. He said the Sharad Pawar-led party will not win more than four seats in the Lok Sabha polls and would ultimately merge with the Congress, which still enjoys a dedicated vote bank in the state and country.
In a freewheeling interview with HT, Munde said NCP’s second-generation leadership, especially Ajit Pawar, isn’t capable of running a party the way his illustrious uncle did. He said the grand alliance BJP-Sena forged before the Lok Sabha polls has pushed the NCP to the wall. “Our alliance will win more than 35 out of the 48 seats in Maharashtra.
We will convert every contest in a close fight, especially in the NCP’s stronghold of western Maharashtra where the party claims to have a mass base.” He called incumbent CM Prithviraj Chavan listless and non-performer and said the latter had failed the people of the state in the past three years. The former deputy chief minister said he would return to Maharashtra only when his party was able to get adequate number of MLAs to make him the CM. Excerpts from the interview…
Two phases of polls in the state are over and the BJP-Sena alliance seems to have enjoyed an edge so far. Will the surge continue in the third phase?
Absolutely. Of the 29 seats that went to polls on April 10 and 17, our alliance will win more than 20. The third phase in which 19 seats will go to polls will push us to the top of the ladder. We will get more than 35 seats.
Who among the Congress and NCP will get more seats?
The Congress, because the party still has a dedicated vote bank in the state and rest of the country. The NCP will get wiped out by the Modi wave despite Sharad Pawar’s extensive campaigning and Ajit’s enormous money power. The NCP will merge with the Congress in near future.
Why will the NCP merge with the Congress? The two are perceived as rivals despite fighting the Lok Sabha and assembly polls together.
The NCP is nothing but a mask of the Congress. It is essentially the same Congress which [Sharad] Pawar split on certain issues which no longer hold any ground. Also, NCP’s next-generation leaders such as Ajit Pawar will not be able to run the party because of his dadagiri (rowdy ways).
Other than the Modi wave, what makes you so confident of a landslide victory?
It is all about our grand alliance which did not allow votes to get split. We shared seats and campaigned together right from the beginning. Anti-incumbency against the Congress-NCP rule in the state and Centre has helped us a lot.
Sharad Pawar wanted to be part of the NDA at some point. Sena’s Manohar Joshi has revealed Pawar was interested in joining your fold 10 years ago.
I am not aware of what happened within the Sena then. But let me tell you that Pawar wanted to join hands with us recently, but Uddhav Thackeray and I opposed him vehemently. I wonder what will Pawar and his cronies do sitting in the Opposition?
You said the Congress has a dedicated vote bank. Does it mean the party will still get the required numbers?
Not at all. The Congress will not get numbers in the Lok Sabha to form the government because we are going to win a clear majority. What I said is that the Congress has a vote bank which can’t be breached easily. But I see a possibility of Muslims, which is deemed a Congress vote bank, preferring parties like the Aam Aadmi Party. I expect this to benefit us.
Are there leaders in the BJP who do not want Modi as the PM?
Modi will be the PM in any case. There are some people who harboured personal ambitions, but then they were given enough chances in the past to prove their worth. Currently, all such disgruntled leaders approve of Modi’s leadership.
They say you would be happy to be agriculture minister in Modi’s cabinet.
I don’t know yet, but then there is only one person other than me, Rajnath Singh, who knows everything about the agriculture sector. I will be happy to head the agriculture ministry and do what Sharad Pawar couldn’t do in the past 10 years. I am also capable of handling any other ministry because I have handled various portfolios in the state.
Will you come back to the state in case the Sena-BJP forms the government later this year?
I will come back only as the CM. I had been deputy CM for five years. I hope the BJP gets numbers to stake claim to the top post.
Will the BJP make any more allies, say the MNS, in its bid to get adequate numbers in the assembly later this year? You have been on the forefront in appeasing Raj Thackeray. You even got him to support you in your own seat in Beed.
Firstly, I sought Raj’s support [in Beed] and he gave it. That’s all. Secondly, I see no possibility of the BJP getting the MNS on board. Our alliance with Sena would continue because the Sena has its strength intact even after the split. The BJP cannot do without Sena in the state.