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‘Nothing like Hindu terror, Pragya’s candidature a reply to such insults’: Devendra Fadnavis

Defending his party’s decision to field Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur in Bhopal, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the move is a riposte to those who insulted Hindus by coining the term Hindu terror.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 24, 2019 09:00 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis,Devendra Fadnavis,Pragya Singh Thakur
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis during his interview with Hindustan Times in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

Defending his party’s decision to field Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur in Bhopal, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the move is a riposte to those who insulted Hindus by coining the term Hindu terror. However, he added that Thakur should not have made the remarks against former Maharasthra anti-terrorist squad chief Hemant Karkare, who laid down his life for the country in the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai.

Thakur said she had cursed Karkare for ill-treating her during her incarceration.Fadnavis also insisted that there is a silent wave in favour of prime minister Narendra Modi and that the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance in the state would win more than 40 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra. Edited excerpts:

There is no visible wave in the state that we saw in 2014. Don’t you think that will affect the BJP-Shiv Sena performance in Maharashtra?

This time the wave is in rural areas. In 2014, we saw a massive wave in the middle classes. There was euphoria which you could feel. That section is already with us.

This time the wave is more in the lower strata of the society which is not vocal. It is not part of any exit or opinion polls. As such, we can sense a silent wave. Ask a farm labourer or any other common man, they will say they want Modi. It’s all about Modi. At several places people vote for him and do not look at the candidate.

How many seats will the BJP-Sena win in Maharashtra?

Both phases went well for us. We should be able to retain our 2014 tally (NDA won 42 of 48 seats in the state). The political situation is so favourable that we can even get more than 42.

In 2014 your plank was development. Five years later, you are talking less about development or performance of the government and more about issues such as nationalism. Why?

Our narrative is about both. In his Monday’s rally in Maharashtra, PM Modi spoke for 20 minutes of which five minutes were on nationalism and remaining on development . Talking about nationalism is inevitable. First, there is a sense of nationalism among people. Second, the Congress manifesto talks about reducing the army in Kashmir, scrapping sedition laws or taking away special powers given to armed forces. In such a scenario, the nationalism issue will obviously be there. And why not? Which country’s national election doesn’t have nationalism as an issue?

Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur has been fielded by your party. Why?

We are relying on investigation by National Investigation Agency (NIA). Their investigation says there is no evidence against her. That this is all made up. On that basis, the party took a decision to give her a ticket.

There is another aspect of it. Around 2007-08, terrorist activities were at a peak in the state. People were being arrested in large numbers. Minority, especially Muslims community, was complaining about action against them and they were going against Congress-NCP (Nationalist Congress Party).

As such, a counter-narrative was prepared and Hindu terror narrative was created. One realizes this after going through the outcome of NIA investigation. If you are trying to insult Hindus by coining terms like Hindu terror then this a reply to the same. You troubled her (Thakur) so she will only give you reply. There is nothing like Hindu terrorism. Absolutely not.

The remarks made by her on slain police officer Hemant Karkare have put your party in trouble...

She shouldn’t have made such remarks. Hemant Karkare was one of the finest officers, was honest and laid down his life for the country. She may have had a different experience and may have suffered (at his hands), but it is not right to speak like this about someone who has sacrificed his life for the country.But even seasoned leaders make irresponsible comments. I would advise her to observe restraint while speaking.

On one hand you talk about nationalism and you field a terror case accused...

Regarding the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act charges against Sadhvi, the prosecution says it doesn’t have evidence. She is out on bail as the prosecution doesn’t want to press charges. By the same logic, even Congress president Rahul Gandhi is out on bail. He has not been given a clean chit.

It looks like the BJP is targetting NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Do you see NCP as your main opponent in the state?

Pawar himself announced he set up the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance). He will face the attack. In Maharashtra, the Congress is the B team of NCP. Congress leaders are clueless here. Pawar is even deciding their seats. Congress’ leader is Rahul Gandhi, NCP’s Pawar.

In Maharashtra people identity with Pawar more, so we are criticizing him. In fact, we are targeting both. We have Congress as the opponent in more seats and the Sena is fighting more seats against the NCP. The NCP’s highest score so far is nine when they were at their peak in 2004. Now things have changed. Their seats will reduce.

How is the synergy with your ally working out?

There was pressure from voters on us to forge the alliance. There was no problem at our level but we were worried about our ground-level workers coming together after four-and-a-half years. It has worked out.

There are reports that some Sena candidates are battling anti-incumbency. Do you think forging ties with the Sena was the right call?

It was the right call. The incumbency of the candidate will not matter because of the Modi factor.

You were the only person in the BJP who could convince Uddhav Thackeray to join the National Democratic Alliance...

I have a good personal equation with Uddhavji. We understand political reality. There were differences of opinion but how long can it be stretched? Both sides know what happened after we snapped ties in 2014. We have learnt our lessons.

Are you willing to take up a responsibility at the Centre if the BJP returns to power?

I don’t think I will be called to take up any responsibility at the Centre. If I am asked to do so, it will be a pleasure to work with Mr Modi.

What is your reaction to industrialist Mukesh Ambani endorsing Mumbai Congress chief Milind Deora’s candidature?

Any person can endorse a candidate. That doesn’t mean he is supporting any party. In the last election too, he had given his vote to Deora, but the Shiv Sena won in that constituency. This time too, the Sena will win.

First Published: Apr 24, 2019 07:16 IST

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