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BMC polls: Criticised demonetisation, not PM Narendra Modi, says Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray says a post-poll alliance with the BJP is unlikely, his criticism has not been personal, but only against their policies

mumbai Updated: Feb 09, 2017 10:39 IST
Manasi Phadke
Manasi Phadke
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
BMC polls,Shiv Sena,Mumbai
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at his residence, Matoshree, in Bandra on Wednesday.(Vijayanand Gupta/HT)

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray says a post-election alliance with the BJP is unlikely, and when there is no relation or meaning within an alliance, searching for a reason for its existence is pointless. The party chief, however, said he needs a breathing period to decide whether to continue Shiv Sena’s support to the BJP at the state level, and a decision is likely only after the civic body elections.

Excerpts from Thackeray’s interview with HT:

The BJP achieved significant success in the municipal council polls, and has been enjoying a wave of popularity. Don’t you think it is a major threat to the Sena in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls?

Yes, they did achieve success in the municipal council polls, but a month later, the result of the legislative council elections to the teachers’ and graduates’ constituencies was exactly the opposite. Within a month, people’s opinions have changed, and if they have changed to such an extent in just one month, imagine how much they can change in another month.

You are fighting now, but may come together to rule the Mumbai civic body after the elections.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at an election rally in Mulund. ( HT Photo )

Unlikely. We had an alliance for 25 years until the Assembly elections and it was not just a seat-sharing pact. We had relations. We had a connection with Atalji, Advaniji, Gopinathji (Munde). Sentimentally, it was difficult for us to break these relations. The BJP called off the alliance then. Now over the past 2-2.5 years, we have been seeing that instead of completing their promises, they are doing something else. Instead of bringing back black money stashed in Swiss banks, they implemented demonetisation and brought the common man on the streets. Where there used to be saintly people on the dais of the BJP, now there are goons. This change is not affordable. Now tomorrow, if instead of Shankaracharya, they make Dawoodacharya (underworld don Dawood Ibrahim), should we bow down to him? BJP has become like a kumbh mela. Take a dip and purify yourself.

So, we will have to seriously think for how long we should stay with this party at what all places, or whether we should even stay with them at all.

You think your party will get a majority on its own in Mumbai civic elections?

100 per cent. People are happy. They are happy because the alliance has been broken, and they are happy because I am saying what is in their minds aloud.

The Shiv Sena has said the state government is on a notice period. How long is this notice period likely to be?
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray feels the meaning of the alliance with the BJP has been lost. ( File )

The notice is still being typed. Why is an alliance forged? If in the alliance, the relation, the meaning is lost, then the reason is lost. If our path is not agreeable to you, your path is not agreeable to me, why look for a reason? So I think first let us get over with the municipal corporation elections, then we can assess this entire situation. I need a breathing period to think about it and take an informed decision.

BJP leaders say the Shiv Sena’s constant criticism of the government in Saamana fuelled the differences between the two parties. What would you say to that?
Uddhav Thackeray with PM Narendra Modi and CM Devendra Fadnavis at the jalpoojan for Shivaji memorial in Mumbai in December. ( File )

Any criticism of mine has not been personal. It has been about policies. For example, my criticism was on the land acquisition bill, it was on certain sections of the Goods and Services Tax, on the issue of Hindutva I criticised the BJP’s alliance with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. I did not criticise Narendra Modi. I criticised demonetisation. It is my right to criticise policies. I have not called anyone a mafia.

There are about 40-odd wards where the majority of the population comprises Gujaratis and have been contested by the BJP until now. How does the Shiv Sena see its performance there?

In 1985, the Shiv Sena contested the BMC elections alone and came to power. In 1997, for the first time, the BJP and Shiv Sena had an alliance for the civic body for Hindutva. We decided that the Marathi wards can be with us, some Gujarati and North Indian wards can be with them, so that we can contest without splitting any Hindu votes. We didn’t interfere in their wards. We said, you are contesting there, so we are not worried. Our shakha there will help you. After many years, all 227 wards are now open and people speaking different languages in different wards have started coming to us. Some Gujaratis, North Indians, Muslims have come. They came by themselves, and why should one say no?

Over the years there has been an impression that the Shiv Sena has been anti-Gujarati. How are you battling that impression?

Those wards were with the BJP, and to say we were anti-Gujarati is not right. Take Raj Purohit, for example, we helped him. We helped Atul Shah. We even helped Mangal Prabhat Lodha at one point of time. Haven’t we also helped Kirit Somaiya? Even the last time, I was pulled into the campaigning for Kirit. So, it is just that the wards were with them.

Is there any possibility of a tie-up with the MNS?

After so many years, the Shiv Sena has started progressing by itself, why look back?

Read | Hardik Patel as Shiv Sena’s face for Gujarat polls? Uddhav Thackeray says why not

Do you think the recent defections and internal rebellion might cause a dent to the party?

No, I don’t think so. Ultimately people want work done, and a party that does work. A party that takes responsibility. Now, most who had filed independent nominations have withdrawn them. What happens is, some people are new to the party and we gave them candidature at a few places. At a few other places we could not accommodate a few other people. One should also understand their mindsets. They too have aspirations.

What is the significance of your meeting with Hardik Patel on Tuesday?
Gujarat Patidar leader Hardik Patel with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aditya Thackeray at their Bandra residence on Tuesday. ( Vijayanand Gupta/HT PHOTO )

Hardik Patel had wanted to come and visit since long. He is still young and he himself says that he has not established any political outfit of himself and has not even given it a thought. His meeting yesterday was important from the point of view of his devotion to Balasaheb. He seems very thorough and will grow a lot. What I feel bad about is that you brand such a person as a traitor. He might be erring, but why would you err? Should people not speak against you at all? You can declare him as a traitor and then form relations with leaders like Mufti. This is wrong.

Will he be your face in Gujarat?

I did say that he could, but to begin with he has no political party of himself. I don’t know if he can even contest at the age of 23, but going forward if he is going to develop as a leader and fight, why shouldn’t I back him?

Read | How the polite, shy Uddhav Thackeray made the Shiv Sena roar

You are facing flak for bad roads in Mumbai? Why is the condition of the city’s roads so sad?

I am not saying that I have managed to make Mumbai’s roads pothole-free. The responsibility of Mumbai’s roads doesn’t lie only with the BMC. The PWD and MMRDA (state agencies) also look at some of Mumbai’s roads. The neglect of roads by them is also often blamed on the BMC. The BMC every year maintains and cements roads in the city, but there are utilities that lie underground to provide various services and the agencies that provide these services keep digging Mumbai’s roads for various works. I have discussed this with successive CMs. My demand is that make it a centralised command.

What about the allegations of widespread corruption in road contracts, and inferior quality works?

The same people who made the allegations gave a Metro contract to a contractor blamed for these road works. They have given contracts to companies blacklisted by the BMC. The standing committee meetings are anyway transparent. One has to award contracts to the lowest bidder otherwise he will challenge it in courts. Also, corporators have no role in awarding contracts. Awarding tenders is the administration’s work. Corporators don’t have any role to play in it. Also, if corporators reject a particular proposal, the municipal commissioner can overturn the decision. To begin with, the administration brings the proposal. A corporator doesn’t bring a proposal. Now, all works of the BMC are available online for the public’s perusal. So, bring transparency in the state government too by putting up remarks of all ministers and secretaries online. Bring transparency in that. Put file notes online.

There are many freebies in your manifesto, such as waiver of property tax for houses up to 500 square feet and a rebate for those up to 700 square feet. There has been criticism about why these are being promised only before elections, and why these were not implemented despite the Shiv Sena being at the helm of the BMC for 20 years.
hiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, son Aaditya and other party leaders launch the party’s manifesto for the BMC polls on January 23, 2017. ( Arijit Sen/HT PHOTO )

That way, one should speak about the promises that other parties are making as well. For example, the Ram Mandir issue in Uttar Pradesh. We don’t do that. We have implemented everything that we have promised. This time I felt after collecting property tax for so many years we have reached a comfortable financial state. So there is no reason to keep collecting property tax from these people. So, we have not decided to scrap it. Also, it is not just property tax. It comprises 8 to 10 different taxes – a general tax, an education cess, a street tax. Now on street tax, the BJP says it will waive that and on the other hand the party says it will maintain the level of the property tax. How will they keep the property tax stable on one hand, but scrap the street tax on the other?

But do you know the cost of a sop like scrapping property tax. Won’t it affect the BMC’s revenue, especially when revenue from octroi too is likely to go with the introduction of the GST?

It is true that the scrapping of taxes will impact the BMC’s revenue, but there are other provisions that I have thought of. It is feasible even if octroi is scrapped. I have studied everything and only then made promises. I have three major promises — rebate in property tax, free bus travel for uniformed students and a healthcare scheme—that can impact finances, but I have made them only after studying the entire situation. I am not saying I will make water free because we cannot manufacture water, and realise what the cost of procuring water is. During drought if we did not have Middle Vaitarna dam, we would have been in a fix. Even now, we don’t have permissions for Gargai and Pinjal dams.

If the Shiv Sena comes to power in the state, would you want to be the chief minister?

Honestly, I don’t have such dreams. I don’t have personal dreams. My one dream is to get a Shiv Sena chief minister in Maharashtra. But I am not one to run away from responsibility. If it suddenly comes up, I will step forward. But that is not my personal dream. In 2014, there was a sudden situation that demanded me to step up.

Read more: Maharashtra CM only cares about destroying Shiv Sena: Uddhav Thackeray

First Published: Feb 09, 2017 08:32 IST