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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

‘National interest is foremost for the people’: Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil

“In spite of it being in power for so many years, why aren’t the people siding with the Congress ideology? It is because national interest is foremost for the people of this country. The BJP took up that agenda and received support for its decision [to nullify] Article 370,” Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2019 02:10 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustna Times, Ahmednagar
Former Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.
Former Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
         

Former Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, is leading the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s campaign against the Opposition in Ahmednagar. He spoke to Vinod Sharma while electioneering in the temple town of Shirdi. Edited excerpts:

Why is politics so bitter in Ahmednagar, the sugar bowl of Maharashtra?

The sugarcane belt has been central to Maharashtra’s politics. There’s no bitterness. It’s healthy competition.

You parted company with the Congress and NCP chief Sharad Pawar on a bitter note.

I have nothing personal against Pawar. My party [the Congress] should have defended my position, which they could not. I was the Leader of Opposition (in the state assembly) but they couldn’t give me one seat [Ahmednagar]. Pawar made it a personal issue because the seat was with the NCP and there was a long-drawn political feud between him and my father [Balasaheb Vikhe Patil]. But that’s history now. We’ve moved on.

Isn’t it amazing that the feud between your families has lasted three generations?

Surprisingly, it is so. We must leave such things behind. Unfortunately the old guard carried with them such issues while the new generation, I think, is ready to forgive and forget. This has to come from the leadership.

You’ve said Rahul Gandhi shouldn’t have quit as Congress president after the 2019 debacle. Coming from you, isn’t that rich as you’ve yourself quit the Congress?

There was a context to my statement. My point was that any leader who is heading a party should take the responsibility for its success or failure. You just can’t quit and go.

On Article 370, there’s one narrative that’s the BJP’s and there is another of the Congress which is essentially about the means to the revoking of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. As a former Congressman, what is your view?

I think we have to place larger national interest above ideology. Unfortunately the Congress has lost touch with reality. The scrapping [nullification] of Article 370 was a long-held demand of the masses. The Congress with which I was associated for a long time has a history of its own. But then, we should have been ready to change. In spite of it being in power for so many years, why aren’t the people siding with the Congress ideology? It is because national interest is foremost for the people of this country. The BJP took up that agenda and received support for its decision [to nullify] Article 370.

You’ve claimed the NCP-Congress combine will be wiped out in the upcoming polls. What’s the basis of your confidence?

In a healthy democratic system, we do not undermine any political party. Parties have their own bases, their workers. But in the Lok Sabha elections in the district, in spite of their state and central leadership campaigning, they couldn’t find any room to stand in both [parliamentary] constituencies [Ahmednagar and Sirdhi]. We must interpret that in the context of the issues involved: the irrigation deficit and the reservation for Marathas, the Dhangars who have a formidable presence here. The Dhangars (a special backward community) are being extended benefits available to the scheduled tribes. There has been good social engineering in terms of caste combination. Devendra Fadnavis’s leadership has generated trust. He is a man who delivers.

Your exit from the Congress was precipitated by the leadership’s failure to convince Pawar to leave the Ahmednagar seat for your son, Sujay. So there was a personal element.

I don’t deny that. I did not find any purpose continuing in the party when I saw it working under somebody’s diktat at the expense of its workers.

Prithviraj Chavan the other day said Pawar was still the tallest Maratha leader. Do you agree?

Pawar is a leader of long standing in Maharashtra. No doubt about it. But coming from Chavan, it is quite surprising. It was his inefficient leadership that brought upon the Congress the disaster it now faces. Leave alone the state, he couldn’t give leadership to his home district of Satara.

Are you on talking terms with Sharad Pawar?

Yes, definitely. I’ve nothing personal against him. He’s a fatherly figure whom we respect. But we’ve our own way of thinking, we’ve our own views.