Aaditya Thackeray: I am 100 per cent ready to lead the state
Aditya Thackeray has one eye on Worli, another on state, but says he'd rather take the arduous route up. In an interview to Sunday mid-day, the first Thackeray to stand for polls discusses the future of Aarey, BEST and a 24x7 functional Mumbai
Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray meets Sunday mid-day for a sit-down interview and says he feels no pressure at being the first in his family to ever contest an election. He realises the challenges will be many, and he, fully answerable. But he is ready to take onus. Despite his age and nascent experience, Thackeray has been portrayed by many within Shiv Sena as eligible candidate for the Chief Minister's post. He says, in mature neta style, he is ready for any responsibility the party gives him, but he'd like to take one step at a time.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
How did the decision to contest an election come about? No Thackeray has ever done it.
I don't feel any differently from another member of the Sena who has contested an election. I have seen my grandfather work with candidates, and then my father, and I have been quite the fan of the legislative process, whether Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha. I felt I could personally contribute a lot more if I participated in the legislative process.
Why choose Worli as your constituency?
Worli is, in a sense, a reflection of Maharashtra. It includes all kinds of people, whether those living in highrises, BDD chawls or slums. There is scope to do development work here. Sena MLA Sunil Shinde ji has done some good work here, and now we have Sachin Ahir ji with us too. We have a strong cadre base in the constituency. I believe both, Marathi and cosmopolitan voters will support us.
Your state-wide tour has received a good response. What have you gathered about what people expect from you ?
They have discussed the economic slowdown. And the environment. But, this election is primarily about local issues. For example, one of the concerns shared with me by college and school students from a rural constituency was about the long wait at bus stops for transport. We have proposed an introduction of close to 3,000 buses that will cater exclusively to school and college kids so that they can reach their institutes on time. When I see someone give me a thumbs up in a crowd, it means they are with us. It motivates me to do better for people and society. The biggest learning from this yatra is to be able to listen to stories to understand ground-level problems. At a macro level, we need to set our policies right. As politicians, we concern ourselves with the big issues of Maharashtra. Talking to farmers and traders has helped.
You've been vocal about protecting Aarey and its rich biodiversity, but got trolled when the MMRC went ahead with tree cutting. Citizens are upset that a Sena environment minister could do nothing.
I wrote a detailed blog that made clear my stand on the subject. Although we have an environment minister at the centre, we had nothing to do with permissions for the Metro. We opposed the cutting of trees at Aarey at every possible forum, including the Improvement Committee of the BMC where we rejected the proposal. We rejected the proposal in the DP and opposed the change in the use of plot for the car shed. When the proposal reached the Tree Committee, Shiv Sena was the only party to oppose felling of trees while BJP and NCP supported it, and Congress staged a walkout. All Sena members voted against the cutting. We want the Metro, and this is not about the cutting of trees. It's about an ecosystem. Aarey has the floodplains of the Mithi river. The Sena isn't saying this; NEERI is. Either dissolve NEERI or listen to citizens. There are papers published in scientific journals proving this. Aarey is also home to resident leopards like Luna and her cubs. They have options available to shift the car shed to Kanjurmarg, Backbay and Oshiwara dept, but MMRC has been lying throughout. Why the greed to grab land in Aarey? MMRC claims that a majority of the trees proposed to be felled have been cut, but those attached to the cause say there are enough trees still standing on the car shed site. How do you plan to address this post the results? If the results go our way, we will declare Aarey a forest, and protect the Adivasis who reside within it. The question is not about trees; 3,000 trees were cut fo Metro work all over Mumbai. We are opposing it because the decision has threatened an entire ecosystem.
Has the plastic ban been successful, according to you?
I was trolled when we proposed it, but then Prime Minister took up the cause too. I can't say that it's 100 per cent successful in Maharashtra, but we will see results in the next three or four years. From the government's end, it's a ban. It's the people who will have to turn it into a movement to make it successful. It's the shops, restaurants, cafes, theatres that wil have to join the cause.
The 24/7 functioning Mumbai proposal has been long pending. What the status on it?
We are awaiting a signature from the chief minister. The Police Commissioner and Municipal Commissioner have offered their approval. The Shop and Establishment Act that was supposed to be amended has been revised in 2017. The direct benefit of this is that the policy will come into effect in non-residential areas. Close to five lakh people will be directly hired by the food and beverage industry, and help in revenue generation for the state.
Saving and supporting BEST is another of your causes. How do you see it pan out?
BEST is the pride of Mumbai. Currently, we have 3000 buses and are expanding our fleet to 6000. When we slashed ticket prices, in the first month, we saw 10 lakh passengers. We are also getting 300 electric buses on board, and mini buses for last mile connectivity. We are also pushing for a single smart card that allows a commuter to travel across BEST, the Metro and the suburban railway.
In Sindhudurg, Sena has fielded a candidate against Narayan Rane's son despite the BJP and Sena being in an alliance. Does it send out a wrong message?
It was mutually decided between party president Uddhavji and CM Devandraji.
There has been talk about a Sena Chief Minister. Are you prepared to lead the state if you get the opportunity?
[I am] fully prepared, a hundred per cent ready to take it ahead. But, right now, I'm not dreaming of that because the moment I do, I will falter on the lower rungs of the ladder. I can't get to first floor without taking the stairs to there.
Do you have a number in mind for winning seats?
I want the Sena-BJP and alliance partners to cross the 200 mark.
On your own individual seat, are you looking at a specific margin?
In Worli, I am receiving genuine support. I'm not concerned with the margin. My focus is on development [that will reach] every lane.
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Celebrations begin at Shiv Sena Bhavan as Aaditya Thackeray takes the lead