As the Congress-NCP led government completes four years in office,
spoke to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh about its performance. Excerpts:
Wasn’t your government too soft with the MNS till the Centre pressured you? Why was there a delay in arresting Raj Thackeray?
There’s no question of going soft on the MNS and Thackeray. It’s true we took some time to fit in cases under the relevant laws. Making a strong case against Thackeray was important.
Do you think the government failed to tackle the MNS effectively?
We have contained violence, taken tough action against them. The government has given a strong signal that it will not tolerate violence.
What about the issues raised by them — locals should get jobs?
We sympathise with the issue. For us, it’s a social issue; for them, it’s a political one. Our government had issued a resolution in 1973 about ensuring jobs for locals in industries. The problem is we don’t have enough people who take up jobs that need hard physical work. Raj is repeating what his uncle Bal Thackeray did in the 70s.
Many people argue that railway recruitment for Classes III and IV should be done regionally and not nationally. Do you agree?
I have asked the chief secretary to check whether advertisements for these recruitments were issued in Marathi newspapers. The Railways has its own method of recruitments. But I’ll speak to the Railways Minister. There is another argument. Should jobs be proportionate to the Railways’ presence in the state? If so, Maharashtra has a small portion of the Western Railway.
Some right-wing activists have been arrested in the Malegaon blast case. Are you satisfied with the probe?
For the first time, the police have zeroed in on members of a saffron outfit for terrorist activities. The BJP and Sangh Parivar are on the back foot.
I am happy that the investigation is proving to be a solace for a particular community that was feeling isolated and targeted for its alleged role in terror activities. The probe is going in the right direction.
The flood of foreign investment is one of your biggest achievements. Will the global meltdown take its toll on the Rs 1.35 lakh crore investments?
I don't know what will happen in the future because I don’t know their (the investors’) financial position. I expect some delay, but I’m sure foreign investment will stay, because several companies have started working on their projects. It seems they are happy with our customised packages.
Protests over SEZs are growing. Is the government going slow on SEZs now?
There is problem with the Raigad SEZ, but things are normal for the others.
Are you happy with the way the government is handling the issue of farmer suicides?
The number of farmer suicides has definitely dropped. We’ve corrected lapses in implementing of packages. We are moving in the right direction. The farmers are responding to our concentrated efforts to provide allied businesses for them.
You were pushing for the Mumbai makeover, but no big-ticket infrastructure project has really taken off in Mumbai. Why?
I’ve been doing my best. We’re monitoring projects like Bandra-Worli (sealink) on a daily basis. I will inaugurate it in January 2009. Next month, we flag off the monorail project. In 22 months, Mumbaikars can use the monorail.
Won’t the slowdown affect financing of these projects too?
As of today, there isn’t much of an impact. I don’t know what will happen in the future. That’s why we are financing certain projects...ourselves.