Mohan Rawle was the Shiv Sena's first ever Lok Sabha MP, representing South Central Mumbai in Parliament for five terms until 2009. He began life as Bal Thackeray's bodyguard and hails from the mill land area in Central Mumbai which is considered the last bastion of the Marathi manoos in the metropolis, fast being overtaken by malls and upmarket housing complexes - and a different demographic profile. Not surprisingly, then, Rawle lost the election in May this year to the Congress's Milind Deora. In this interview he speaks his heart out to Sujata Anandan, taking on Rahul Gandhi and the BJP, an old time ally of his party, in equal measure.
Q: What do you have to say about Rahul Gandhi's comments on North Indians in Mumbai?
A: Those comments are very misplaced. Rahul Gandhi is wrong to assert that only North Indians defended Mumbai during 26/11. If there were only North Indians among the commandos sent to Mumbai, that is not the fault of Maharashtrians. A predominance of North Indians in the NSG happens because of the kind of recruitment policies they follow. If there had been a NSG unit in Mumbai, I am sure it would have had a majority of Maharashtrians and then Maharashtrians would have been defending Mumbai, rather than depending on North Indians for it.
However, many Maharashtrian boys do join the Indian Army. They defend the country on the borders at Kashmir and other parts of the country. Do we, as Maharashtrians, then claim that India is safe because Maharashtrians fought on the borders? If they join the army or the NSG, they fight to defend the country and they do no favours to any one particular region. The NSG commandos similarly fought the terrorists in Mumbai bcause they were defending the country, not Mumbai.
Rahul Gandhi is confused and completely mixing up two issues. Our issue is about sons of the soil and their employment opportunities in their own state. He is talking of national security.
Q: But aren't you taking the sons of the soil issue too far?
Not at all. There was a notification 40 years ago on April 27, 1960 from the Union Home Ministry decreeing that local people should be given the first right of refusal to jobs created in their own states. That's all that we are pursuing. And we have not started the campaign now. It is an old issue. If the grievances of the people had been properly addressed and the Home Ministry's notification been implemented properly we would have had no cause to agitate. Even after we came into alliance with the BJP, we did not give up our sons of the soil issue. They came to power with us in 1995 because of that. So they are now wrong to create this division. All we have done is reiterate our demand and re-intensify our agitation. So we are consistent and cannot be accused of opportunism.
Q: So what do you propose to do about it further?
A: I have written several letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over this but I am sorry to say I have received no satisfactory replies. But we have to pursue all routes. Since the railway recruitments are coming up and Indian Railways always offer a big employment opportunity, I am calling on Union Railways Minister Mamta Banerjee tomorrow to petition her. I am seeking an assurance from her that the next round of recruitment exams in Mumbai will be largely for Maharashtrians and not just Biharis. I do not know if she will meet me or even if she will listen to my appeal. But I can always try. If she refuses to meet me, at least I can leave my petition behind in her office. We can only hope.
Q: And if the hope is belied?
We will continue to agitate. This is our original issue. We are not giving up on it until every last maharashtrian has a job in his own state.