‘Grand Alliance to stay, will win more seats in Maha than 2014’: Devendra Fadnavis
On the back of a sweeping mandate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the saffron alliance was here to stay and the allies would return to power comfortably, winning more seats than in the 2014 elections.
The allies had contested the 2014 polls separately and won 185 seats (BJP had won 122, Sena had won 63). The state BJP is now looking at a 220+ tally. The chief minister in an interview to Hindustan Times also said the upcoming assembly polls in October are a referendum on the BJP-Sena government.
He, however, refused to spell out how the power sharing between the allies would work out post polls and indicated that a cabinet expansion was on the cards soon. Here are excerpts of the interview.
The BJP-Sena’s triumph in Maharashtra came despite a severe drought in the state, farm protests, among others, in the past five years. You have credited this victory to a silent Modi wave, but what else helped your coalition in the state specifically to deal with these issues.
Even before the voting began, I had predicted that there is a huge Modi wave. But, it was a silent wave, because most of the people who voted for Prime Minister Modiji, were those who belonged to the poor strata of society. Having said that, it was not a wave created in a month or two, it was just the sustained work of PM Modi for past five years and also the work of the Government of Maharashtra in the past fourand-a-half years, that consolidated this wave and turned it into a tsunami. We faced several challenges, including farm distress, which is a legacy of the past 20 years or more.
But I think the way the centre and state government worked together and the amount of monetary assistance we got has been unprecedented. In the past 10 years of the UPA government, the state got a central assistance of Rs 3,300 crore and during just five years of the Modi government, we have received Rs 11,500 crore. This year, we got Rs 4,700 crore for drought mitigation alone. With the loan waiver, we could credit Rs 18,000 crore to the accounts of farmers. I think the success of our government was the positive approach, with which we faced each and every agitation, without ducking any of the problems.
Will the BJP and Sena contest the upcoming Assembly polls together and will you stick to your end of the bargain like splitting equal number of seats?
Our grand alliance is here to stay. BJP-Shiv Sena-RPI and all our partners will stay together. We have already decided that that we will have a proper seat-sharing agreement. We will be able to garner more seats together than in 2014 polls. What will also add to our success is that people will know that we have rock-solid support from the Modi government in the Centre.
It is said one of the promises made to Sena is splitting the chief ministerial tenure if your coalition comes to power in Maharashtra in October. Is that true?
Alliances don’t work on speculations. We have decided among ourselves how to share the responsibilities and how to move forward to give good governance to the state of Maharashtra. Please wait for things to unfold. As of now, the priority of our alliance is not about who will be chief minister, but how to win the Assembly election and give the people of Maharashtra good governance.
The upcoming polls will be fought on your government’s past five years in power. Do you see it as a referendum on you?
I agree that this election will be a referendum on our governance and I think we can claim we have delivered almost on all promises made before the 2014 elections. While we don’t claim to have solved everything, we will demonstrate that in five years, our governance and delivery is qualitatively and quantitatively far better that in the past 15 years of the UPA government in Maharashtra.
Our track record in the agriculture and infrastructure sector, for instance, has been far better than the earlier government. If you look at Mumbai and MMR region, all the projects, which were stuck for 20 years, whether it is a Coastal Road, MTHL, Mumbai Metro, the New Mumbai Airport, we have got these projects back on track. The Samruddhi Highway (Mumbai-Nagpur super communication highwatly), which will not just integrate the state, but also put it 20 years ahead of other states, was our promise, which we have already started delivering.
NCP chief has sought a complete loan waiver from your government again? Is that on the cards?
There is nothing like a complete loan waiver. For me, loan waiver is not an election gimmick. I have said that a loan waiver is not the only instrument by which we can fight agriculture distress. Having said that, it’s a necessary instrument, because those who are left out of the institutional credit system, are required to be brought into it, so that they become part of our agriculture growth. That’s why we set up the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, our loan waiver scheme. I can claim that looking at the experience of all the states, which went for loan waiver, ours has been the most transparent and it has reached most of the people. We have decided that for technical reasons, those who are left out should also be included in this loan-waiver scheme.
I would also like to remind you that the loan-waiver scheme, which was announced by the central government when Mr Pawar was agriculture minister, was much much smaller than what we have already done. It was a loanwaiver scheme of just Rs 8,000 crore in Maharashtra. We have already deposited more than Rs 18,000 crore. We have already cleared accounts worth Rs 24,000 crore.
Will there be a cabinet reshuffle or expansion to include some senior leaders like Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil who have joined BJP?
I think that there can be both a cabinet reshuffle as well as expansion soon. As of now, we are working on it and soon we will come up with our decision.