Exclusive Uddhav Thackeray Interview: 'Doubtful this government will complete its term'

In his first interview after breaking up with the ruling party, Sena chief lobs a grenade at the BJP, suggesting that the Fadnavis government he supports will not last five years

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray at a recent event to launch a wildlife book in the city. Pic/bipin Kokate
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray at a recent event to launch a wildlife book in the city. Pic/bipin Kokate

Uddhav Thackeray's time at the helm of Shiv Sena has been a series of electoral Tests. The 2012 civic elections, at a time when his father was ill, was seen as Uddhav's acid test. Not many thought he would pass it. He proved them wrong, leading the Sena-BJP alliance to yet another BMC win despite anti-incumbency. But that wouldn't do for his critics. Somehow, the discourse around the 2014 general and assembly polls became about how they were a test for him.

Also Read: Shiv Sena snaps alliance with BJP in Maharashtra for civic polls

Though bruised, Uddhav saw off those tests too, becoming part of the ruling alliance at both Delhi and Mumbai. With the 2017 civic polls around the corner, Uddhav has come a full circle. But we are again hearing about how this will be his ultimate test, as the Sena has split with the BJP. In his first interview since then, Uddhav got candid.

Excerpts:

Why did you end one of the country's oldest political alliances and made the BJP ˆenemy number one?
The AIADMK, Mamta Banerjee, Navin Patnaik and many other regional parties including the Shiv Sena had joined hands with the BJP for a 'Congress-mukt Bharat.' Today, all those allies have left the BJP. Had it been just us, you could say we are cribbing. It is the BJP who should introspect. And BJP is not my enemy. It's just that I am with the janata. We will raise our concerns if people face hardship. Even if we have to speak against our own government or alliance. I am with the people and not against any party.

Buzz is that Sena and BJP will get back post-polls, like it happened in Kalyan, as neither got a majority...
The Sena is confident of getting a majority. That's all I can say now.

Do you think people will re-elect the current state BJP government in 2019.
Let the government first complete its five-year tenure! People voted out Congress-NCP looking for change. They found a new alternative in the saffron alliance. But the way things are unfolding, I am doubtful this government will complete its term.

Why do you say that?
Balasaheb and the BJP inked an alliance on the cause of Hindutva; we are committed to the cause. However, for the BJP, this has taken a backseat. People voted against the Congress as they suffered for 50 years. Despite the change in guard, people continue to suffer. There is anger among citizens. The anger is such that they will not re-elect (the BJP again).

But with polls scheduled in the UP, has not the BJP leadership once again started talking about Ram Mandir?
When the Babri Masjid was demolished, everyone including BJP leaders went into a shell. No one claimed responsibility. It was Balasaheb who came forward and said if my Sainiks have done this, then I am proud of them. Now when the BJP is losing its sheen following demonetisation, the party is raking old issues, talking of Ram Mandir. BJP is saying 'Ram Mandir Wahi Banayenge, par taariq nahi batayenge'.

Read Story: BJP shoots down Shiv Sena's demand for cabinet berth

What about the Centre? Will people re-elect Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019?
People are tired of false promises. The frustration and anger against the BJP government, especially post-demonetisation is such that I am skeptical that voters will show faith in this government for a second term.

A Shiv Sena minister in the Maharashtra government said they carry their resignation letters in their pockets. When will they tender their resignations to the government?
They do carry their resignation letters, as the Shiv Sena is not hungry for power. At the right time, the party will make the right move in the interest of Maharashtra.

Chief Minister Fadnavis and you are said to have a good equation. But in a recent rally, he called you an extortionist party...
These all are baseless allegations. But, yes, several people with criminal backgrounds, especially from other political parties, are being inducted into the BJP. The BJP has become party of goons.

And BJP Mumbai chief Ashish Shelar has called the Sena a party of Kauravas...
We will reply to all these allegations from February 4, when we begin our campaign for the civic polls. The BJP will get a fitting reply for all the allegations they have been making against the Sena rank and file.

What about the talk of MNS trying to gain proximity with the Sena and form an alliance to keep the BJP at bay?
That is a closed chapter for me. My focus in on strengthening the Sena. Let me walk my path.

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