Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut says Maharashtra govt’s work will be based on issues, not Hindutva.
VISHWAS WAGHMODE: On the first day of the Assembly session, to protest against Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on V D Savarkar, BJP MLAs entered the House wearing caps with the message ‘Mi Pan Savarkar (I am also Savarkar)’. How do you see that?
We are also Savarkar. When did we say we are not? I have always believed that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar should not be made a political issue. There can be a difference in opinion but his role in the freedom struggle cannot be ignored… Two months ago, one of their (the BJP’s) MLAs spoke ill about Savarkar. Despite that he was given a ticket to contest…
If the BJP respects him (Savarkar) so much, why didn’t they give him the Bharat Ratna?
VISHWAS WAGHMODE: The Shiv Sena and Congress have been fighting against each other for years. How long will the coalition government last?
The Maharashtra government has been formed with a common minimum programme. It revolves around food, shelter, clothing, health, social justice. The government will function over these issues.
VISHWAS WAGHMODE: Hindutva was kept out of the common minimum programme…
Hindutva is not a subject in the Constitution. The Constitution talks about secularism. The state will run as per the Constitution, not religion. Balasaheb Thackeray said religion should be removed from our minds and
government documents. This (the Constitution) is our ideology, our founder’s ideology.
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: What is your view on the Citizenship Amendment Act? Is it secular?
When Amit Shah was not home minister, in his speeches he would say, ‘Ek ek ghuspaith ko main chun chun kar bahar nikaloonga (I will remove each and every illegal immigrant)’. We thought this is good. We wanted Bangladeshis to be removed. But in last six months, how many of them have been removed? Nobody has a count.
On the other hand, we also believe that the minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh are facing discrimination on communal basis. In Afghanistan, injustice is done to Sikhs. So if they come to our country it becomes our duty to accept them. In Parliament, we asked the government how many such people it intends to give shelter to… Amit Shah had said he had given a ray of hope to lakhs and crores of people. So if you bring lakhs and crores of people into the country, and no one knows where they will be settled… The economy is in such a precarious state, our people are going hungry, they do not have employment… The government should fix a number… Today a fire has swept the whole country against the Citizenship Amendment Act. It will burn down the country. So I think the government will have to take back its decision. Amit Shah has said that some changes will need to be made in the law. That means mistakes have been made.
KAVITHA IYER: If the Shiv Sena was opposed to the Citizenship Amendment Bill, why did you not vote against it in Parliament?
We did not vote against it but we also did not support it. We made our stand clear.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: What led the Shiv Sena to break the alliance with the BJP? What was the turning point?
We were national allies for 25 years, until 2014. I had a feeling since 2014 that the alliance wasn’t working well. We did not break it, the BJP broke it in 2014. After the success the BJP achieved in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, it felt it could go alone and that it did not need regional parties.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: So what made you agree to an alliance with the BJP before the polls?
Personally, I was not interested in it. I was constantly thinking that we will get cheated after the elections, that the situation had become insulting after 2014.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: How was the decision to join the Congress and NCP made? Did NCP chief Sharad Pawar initiate the talks?
The talks had been on for three-four months because I had a feeling that the BJP will not stick to its promise. The BJP had committed that the CM will be from the Shiv Sena, though now they are denying it.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: The BJP says that you betrayed them, and that you had already decided to go the other way?
Why? Is Sharad Pawar not a politician from India? Is he a Pakistani politician? He is a national leader, and Narendra Modi himself has accepted that Pawar is his guru. So we were only talking to his guru. Pawarji is the country’s best leader.
MAYURA JANWALKAR: Balasaheb was considered the ‘Hindu hriday samrat’. With the formation of the new government, how will the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva journey proceed?
No government functions on Hindutva; organisations do. The government will run on the common minimum programme. Hindutva or any other ideology will not feed the hungry. It only gives you mental strength,
KHUSHBOO NARAYAN: The state has a record fiscal deficit. Where will you get the money for development?
Once the Nagpur Session is over, the entire Cabinet will be formed, and responsibilities will be allocated. First of all, Uddhav Thackeray is the CM, and there are experienced people in his Cabinet. Secondly, a leader like Sharad Pawar is with him, who has run the state and the nation.
KAVITHA IYER: For years, the Sena has been a party of protests. Even as part of government, from 2014 till now, the party has protested. Now, will you introduce some changes within the party, perhaps at the shakha level?
Changes don’t happen like this. The shakha’s work will continue. The shakha is the party’s actual strength. The network that Balasaheb Thackeray created, ensuring that each ward has a Shiv Sena office/shakha, made sure that we reached to this level. So no change is required there.
However, the generation has changed. The kind of work we used to do 50 years ago, this new generation will not do it. They are all influenced by the corporate style of working, the thinking has changed. When we started the party, we were not in a position of power. We were street fighters. Now, it is not required. When the government is ours… the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is with us, local bodies are with us, if police are listening to us, there is no need (for protest). If at all we need to, we will protest. That is the Shiv
MOHAMED THAVER: What was your reaction to the two-day government formed by the BJP in the state? Initially, there were rumours that Sharad Pawar had made a fool of the Sena.
(Laughs) Show me one instance where Pawar saheb has back-stabbed anyone in politics? Now what could he have done if his nephew (Ajit Pawar) went to the BJP? Uddhavji called me at 8 am and asked if I was watching the television. I checked, and saw the swearing-in ceremony. I thought it must be an old clip. Then I saw Ajit Pawar as well. I said he (Ajit Pawar) will be back by evening. I had faith.
Secondly, whatever happened that day, Sharad Pawar had nothing to do with it. I always felt that the BJP will resort to some tactics, some last-minute game. But they got stuck in their own game.
VISHWAS WAGHMODE: Uddhav Thackeray was reluctant to become CM. How did you convince him?
I was saying from the first day that Uddhav Thackeray will be CM. That he had to become CM. There was no one else who could run this government for five years. I had faith he would agree because it was our commitment to Balasaheb Thackeray.
KAVITHA IYER: Why was Uddhav Thackeray reluctant?
He never wanted to occupy a power centre. He is an organisation man.
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: Some say that despite Uddhav Thackeray being CM, the remote control of this government is with Sharad Pawar.
No. Those who know Sharad Pawar, his politics, his style of controlling the administration, know he never does such a thing. He never interferes. If there is some good work to be done in the interest of the state, the nation, or even if the farmers have some issue, he gets it done. But he does not govern with a remote control.
SRINATH RAO: Would you want Ajit Pawar to become the Deputy CM?
Yes. He is a very experienced politician. What has happened has happened. One should forget it. Ajit Pawar’s experience will benefit Uddhav Thackeray and the government. I have watched Ajit Pawar closely for many years. It is in his nature to react very easily on some issues… If we want the government to work for the next five years, and for it to be stable, we have to keep Ajit Pawar within the government and in a leadership role. I trust Ajit Pawar, as does Pawar saheb.
DEVENDRA PANDEY: We did not hear about Hindutva even once in Aaditya Thackeray’s speeches. Is the new generation of the Shiv Sena different?
It’s the party’s ideology. The party which was formed by Balasaheb Thackeray about 50 years ago spoke about the people’s hungry stomachs. Our ideology will remain. Our nation, soil and dharam are on one side but people want food, clothes, housing and employment. It is important to provide this for all.
KHUSHBOO NARAYAN: What’s your position on the Babri Masjid?
It’s an old topic. Ram mandir was supposed to be made there, it’s being made.
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: When will Uddhav Thackeray go to Ayodhya? He was supposed to go last month…
He will go. Rahul Gandhi went to Somnath Temple in Gujarat… It’s not a crime. Why shouldn’t we go? We should go and we will go. We don’t go to temples only during the elections. During the elections, Rahulji went to all temples in Gujarat. Uddhavji will go to Ayodhya too.
IRAM SIDDIQUE: Since forming the government, you have put many major infrastructural projects — the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train, the Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop — under review. Before this, while you were in a coalition with the BJP, did the Sena ever raise these issues?
We formed a review committee for the Metro car-shed in Aarey. The Metro is not being reviewed. The decision will be taken soon. We have been against the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train from day one. The farmers are not willing to give up their land in Palghar, Dahanu, where the line in Maharashtra starts from.
VISHWAS WAGHMODE: Will Aaditya Thackeray join the government?
I can’t take that decision, only the CM can. As party members, we want it. But now it’s a government of three parties, so all decisions will be taken by them.
RESHMA SHIVADEKAR: Are you going to make a film?
Work on a film based on George Fernandes’s life is going on. People should know who George Fernandes was, and his struggle together with Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi was scared of Fernandes.
ALAKA SAHANI: Do you think with films such as Tashkent Files, Accidental Prime Minister, cinema is being used for propaganda?
I didn’t like the fact that the movie attacked Manmohan Singh’s image. Manmohan Singh has helped rebuild the country’s economy.
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: Will you be implementing the NRC (National Register of Citizens) in the state?
The CM has stated his opinion on the subject. The topic has not come up for discussion in the state Cabinet. There are many states that have refused to accept the NRC. We have said from the beginning that before bringing in the NRC, expunge the two crore Bangladeshis from the country. That was the Home Minister’s commitment. The CM will decide whether the NRC is needed in Maharashtra.
TABASSUM BARNAGARWALA: Aren’t your statements on secularism and Hindutva contradictory in spirit?
No. Where have we brought up Hindutva in speeches? We have not asked for votes on the basis of religion and we will not do it in the future either.
NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN: Do you think there is insecurity among Indian Muslims over the Ram temple verdict and Citizenship Act?
Muslims are the most secure in the country. Muslims in India are more safe than Muslims in Islamic countries. We all protect them. Indian Muslims, including big leaders like (AIMIM chief Asaduddin) Owaisi, (lyricist) Javed Akhtar can speak their mind. We also appreciate them sometimes for saying good things.
KAVITHA IYER: But we are seeing students being beaten up in Muslim institutions….
Now, Amit Shah has said that some changes will be made (to the CAA). There is pressure from people who have come out on the streets. The government will have to take a decision. If something wrong has happened, then the government will make changes.
SADAF MODAK: Will your government accept the Srikrishna Commission report on the Mumbai riots? It was rejected by the Sena.
The government needs to be asked about this. Let the Chief Minister take some decisions. I am not a part of the government.
MAYURA JANWALKAR: Do you think that at the national level, the Opposition is weak?
The Opposition is not in existence and is engaged in different issues. While there are protests against the CAA everywhere, some leaders raised the issue of Savarkar unnecessarily (Rahul Gandhi said surname is not Savarkar, it’s Gandhi). It diverted attention from the CAA. The Opposition needs a direction. The Opposition doesn’t have a leader… a leader who can bring in a new government. In the coming days, Uddhav Thackeray will have to play this role at the national level.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE: And Sharad Pawar will support Thackeray…
Definitely. We will all support him. After the government formation in Maharashtra… many leaders from other states are saying that this can be done in their states as well. Uddhav Thackeray has become the face of it and he will have to play a role at the national level in the coming days.
KAVITHA IYER: What is Uddhav Thackeray’s administrative style like?
It’s not dominating. He listens to everyone. The BMC is kind of like a state and Uddhav has been handling it for 30 years. He listens to everyone and then takes a decision.
VISHWAS WAGHMODE: Do you see the BJP and the Sena coming together in the future ?
The time has gone; the alliance is over for ever. We have now chosen a path. If we keep changing roads, we will be directionless. We will see what to do after five years. Till then, we will run this government.