Days after his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena won 13 seats in the Maharashtra elections, outdoing the Shiv Sena in Mumbai, Raj Thackeray takes stock and speaks of his plans for the future. Excerpts from the interview with HT:
Were the election results on expected lines or did you get more than you anticipated?
I was hoping for 5-6 more seats. Our guess was that we would win around 20. We were expecting more seats from Pune, Mumbai, Nashik and Thane.
So what went wrong?
I am yet to do an analysis — we will after some time.
Aren’t you happy the Shiv Sena lost? Wasn’t that your first purpose in quitting the party?
It is a fact that I quit the Sena but I did not form my party for a trivial reason like ensuring the Sena’s defeat. I did it to prove what I could do for the Marathi manoos. I believe in improving my own tally rather than working for the defeat of others.
But ultimately that’s what happened. The MNS candidates cut into Shiv Sena votes.
I don’t believe in splitting the votes. Lots of people think votes can be split. It is an illusion. My candidates won by defeating candidates from all political parties, not just the Shiv Sena.
You won more seats than the Sena in Mumbai. So, are you claiming the Thackeray legacy?
I don’t want to get into the legacy business. I am not thinking about any legacy. I have my own party and I have my own policies. People had written me off after the civic polls when my party didn’t put up a good show. Now, everybody is taking us seriously. I spoke about the problems of Maharashtra and people voted for me.
This election was also seen as a war between you and your cousin, Uddhav. The Sena won fewer seats than the MNS in Mumbai and couldn’t form the government. You think you won?
There was no war with Uddhav. I was criticising the Shiv Sena for its failure as an opposition party. All that is past. I have left that behind. I don’t even think about it. I am more concerned about the problems of Maharashtra. The politics of hatred never succeeds.
Wasn’t your campaign against north Indians politics of hatred?
That was an allegation against me. That was not the MNS’s policy. My adversaries can make such allegations. It doesn’t make a difference to me. I am doing what I want to do.
Will your party be more aggressive on the Marathi agenda now?
Of course, we will be more aggressive on the Marathi issue. Look what [Samajwadi Party legislator] Abu Azmi is demanding. He wants Assembly documents in Hindi. How dare you do this in Maharashtra? This is what I am pointing out. Their [the north Indians’] motive is to take control of Mumbai. Our aggression won’t change. In fact, it will increase now.
Will your workers go around and beat up north Indians or resort to violent ways?
That does not necessarily mean violence. Even last time, it was not like there was violence everywhere. There were attacks at two-three places but the media blew it out of proportion. When Biharis were beheaded in Assam or north Indians were beaten up in Karnataka nobody bothered to make a noise over it. Why was there reaction when something happened here? That was because I disrupted their [of those from UP-Bihar] agenda. Now, even a BMC survey shows half of the people in Mumbai are from UP and Bihar. I exposed the agenda of some people to capture Mumbai. The issue will not go.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has warned you against violence on the streets. He said you should show aggression in the Assembly and not on the streets since you are a responsible party now.
He should work in the Assembly first. Else we will have to show him what we can do outside. We will be aggressive inside the Assembly as well as outside on the streets. And Chavan better form the government first. People are suffering due to inflation and the Congress-NCP is busy fighting for a share in power. The government has come to a standstill.
In the Sena mouthpiece, the Sena chief said the Marathi manoos had stabbed him in the back. Do you agree?
Those who wrote the editorial and criticised Marathi manoos should know. You present your agenda before the people and they decide whether to support you or not. You have to accept that mandate. After Lok Sabha polls, they were accusing me of splitting Marathi votes. Now after the Assembly polls, they are blaming the Marathi manoos.
You must have seen that I did not celebrate after my 13 candidates were elected...What is there to celebrate? It’s just 13 seats. I want to make them 130. And if we are getting electoral success, it also means that people are putting responsibility on our shoulders. We should be able to justify that.