I am neither right nor left wing and my decisions are guided only by the Constitution, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has said, brushing aside criticism against his government over its alleged tilt towards a Hindutva agenda.
In an exclusive interview to HT on Sunday night ahead of his coalition government completing one year in office on October 31, Fadnavis spoke about the debate on rising intolerance in the country and remarked that the trend of authors returning awards smacked of a bias against the Narendra Modi government.
The comments by Fadnavis, 45, comes against a backdrop of his ally Shiv Sena’s proactive -- and often violent – means of protest which has seen the cancellation of a concert by Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali and a paint attack on columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni in Mumbai recently.
Though Fadnavis had criticised the Shiv Sena over the incident, the opposition has alleged that the radical right-wing political party has been emboldened by Fadnavis’ tacit support to its actions.
“I am neither right wing nor left wing. I am the chief minister of the state and my allegiance is solely to the Constitution. Whatever decisions I take are in accordance with the constitutional framework,” Fadnavis said in a reply to a specific query.
In the nearly hour-long interview, the chief minister also said that two of the most disturbing incidents – the killings of a Muslim man in Dadri and rationalist MM Kulbargi -- took place in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka but no one was criticising the Mulayam Singh’s government or the Congress government.
“I respect them (authors) but the way it is being done there is a feeling of bias. Many worse incidents have taken place in the past but there was no reaction then. Was it because views of those governments were suiting them? It’s dangerous when intellectuals and writers start taking sides,” he said.
Fadnavis added that had the Dadri incident happened in Maharashtra “these people would have been hanged me by now.”
Despite an under-current of tension in the BJP-Sena ties, Fadnavis said that the saffron alliance would complete its five-year tenure.
“I do not see a possibility of Shiv Sena quitting the alliance. They have no reason to do so. I am in direct touch with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. We will complete the five-year mandate given to us,” he added.
Under Fadnavis, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party in the 288-member assembly with 122 seats in last year’s polls. The Sena has 63 MLAs.