Devendra Fadnavis: If BJP accepts all comers, no one will be left in Congress, NCP
Already on a strong footing politically, Devendra Fadnavis tells mid-day, if elected, his government will ensure Maharashtra leads efforts to revive the Indian economy
After setting a record for himself and the Bharatiya Janata Party by becoming only the second (and first non-Congress) Maharashtra chief minister to complete a full five-year term, Devendra Fadnavis is on a state-wide yatra seeking a second term. mid-day caught up with him during the Nanded-Latur-Solapur leg of his Mahajanadesh Yatra, just before he got party boss Amit Shah's approval as the chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming polls.
You are being compared with some great leaders in terms of political acumen and hard work. What will you tell those who said you will not last a full term?
My friends describe me as a tortoise that clears hurdles on its way and walks steadily to reach its goal. In the past five years, I took everything in my stride with a positive approach and learned to work in crisis situations. I didn't allow negativity to affect my resolve. I found solutions to challenges and tried to correct past mistakes without compromising the interest of the state. Other party leaders find solution for a problem by creating another big problem; they keep communities and various stakeholders fighting to divert attention from real issues. As far as comparison with great leaders is concerned, I'm not as clever and my acumen isn't as great. I worked as per the template given by my leader PM Narendra Modi — work for the people. All my decisions were for public, not individual, good. I draw unending inspiration from Modiji who has given us a legacy to carry forward. Every time I encountered a crisis, I worked hard to find a permanent and sustainable solution and my top leadership stood behind me. But I don't claim to have found solutions to all of the state's problems. There are many that need our attention, and problems will continue to crop up. So far, I have been fairly successful in pushing growth in both urban and rural areas. My next big aim is to free the state of perennial drought-like situation. I want farmers to contribute a great deal to national growth.
Has your success earned you enemies, since rumours say you will be shifted to Delhi soon? Is it true that your relationship with (Union transport minister) Nitin Gadkari is strained? (The interview was conducted just before Shah's endorsement of Fadnavis as the party's CM candidate)
I think I will continue in Maharashtra because of my understanding of Maharashtra issues and politics. I am a disciplined worker. If my party feels I am good for Delhi, I will go there. And if I am good for nothing, I will go home to Nagpur. Talk about my strained relationship with Nitinji is complete crap. Nitinji has been my leader since I entered active politics. He had made it clear that he would go to Delhi when Maharashtra CM's selection came up in 2014. We enjoy a healthy relationship and he continues to be my guide. Opposition leaders have a reason to be my enemy as we have achieved what they couldn't. The people rejected them in all elections between 2014 and 2019. They will meet the same fate in Maharashtra too.
If so, why are you inducting opposition leaders in the BJP? (NCP president) Sharad Pawar and others have accused you of misusing power...
It was very sad to see Pawar saheb's reaction to a question about his leaders' departure. He should understand what is in store for him and that the people who left him don't see any future for themselves in the NCP. We don't admit every person who approaches us. And it is very premature to say that all those inducted will contest polls. Also, there are only 2% of such people in our party. If we open our gates, there would be no major leader left in the NCP and Congress. But we are very selective in taking people in, despite the need to grow the party.
Even the Sena has been accepting turncoats. Is there an understanding between you and Uddhav Thackeray?
So far, about seven leaders worthy of contesting polls have been inducted. Such leaders are taken in considering the seats available in the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. We have been very polite in denying some aspirants and told them that they may approach Sena. I can't reveal their names but I can give some hints. Some families of former CMs, deputy CMs and top opposition leaders approached us for the admission. The BJP wants its own people to defeat such people who are now running helter-skelter because of a fear that that they will be rejected in the polls if they remain in the Congress or NCP.
Some say you insisted on an alliance against party's wishes just to secure your position as the next CM. Is there a chance of the alliance breaking due to disagreement over seat sharing?
The alliance is approved by the BJP's top leadership (the CM's position was later endorsed by Shah). Everything was decided in advance. The seat-sharing between BJP-Sena and our smaller allies should be in place soon. There will be no issues.
The alliance means denial of tickets to many BJP aspirants. How will you manage them? Will you drop sitting MLAs to make space for new faces?
Not all people inducted in the BJP will fight polls, so I don't see a problem in seat distribution. We have evaluated performance of ministers and MLAs. We may drop some sitting MLAs if needed. There are other ways of making aspirants happy. Some will get state-run boards and corporations (which have ministerial status). Some will be made members of the upper house when the vacancies are created. Some may not get anything. We are very clear.
You mentioned about crisis management. How did you handle reservation demands of various communities?
The Maratha agitation was genuine. I thank the community for being patient despite some Maratha leaders trying to incite the peaceful protesters. I worked on a policy and till the legislation came, I came up with schemes for the community that created confidence in the protesters that I was serious in giving them a quota. My emphasis was on talks. Meaningful deliberations and a deep study of the issue by experts helped us make a formidable law. In case of Muslims, I feel current social reservations benefit them. Those who didn't get any benefit so far have gained from the 10% Economically Weaker Sections quota. Muslim students who were way down in the merit list for institutes like IIT-B can now get in. Communities like the Dhangars have also been given welfare schemes that will help them till the time the legislation gets passed by the Centre. OBCs were not ignored. Their quota wasn't shared by others like Marathas.
Economically, you speak about steady growth, but the current slowdown seems to indicate otherwise.
Yes, there is a slowdown but I am confident we will beat this crisis. I see improvement coming very fast. The Centre has acted quickly. Maharashtra also faces the heat. The automobile sector should recover in the next six months. I also see more jobs coming to Maharashtra, which has created 25 per cent of the country's jobs in recent years. I expect the trade war between the US and China to give us, Maharashtra in particular, more investments. In fact, the Chinese have started investing here big time.
What do you think of the opposition making the economy its main poll plank?
The opposition has failed big time. People don't trust them any more because of their dark past. Modiji has built a public trust that nobody can breach. The real pain of the opposition is that Modiji has surpassed all other leaders and has made the impossible possible. For example, Modiji delivered a promise by withdrawing special status to Jammu and Kashmir. It was the common people's demand that Kashmir should be an integral part of India, but the opposition has been speaking against the public sentiment.
Percentage of jobs the CM claims Maharashtra has generated in recent years
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