'People have lost their youth to dirty politics of a select few'

Updated: Oct 11, 2019, 07:48 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Without naming them, Udayanraje Bhosale blames Nationalist Congress Party's Ajit Pawar and Ramraje Nimbalkar for Western Maharashtra's water woes

Udayanraje Bhosle in Satara, on Thursday. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Udayanraje Bhosle in Satara, on Thursday. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

The mercurial Udayanraje Bhosale stumped Sharad Pawar when he quit as NCP MP in September, just five months after winning from Satara. His return to the BJP was perhaps the biggest political surprise among rampant NCP desertions, including his cousin Shivendraraje. Shivaji's direct descendant is back in the electoral fray, fighting the by-poll for the seat he vacated against former colleague, ex-MP and ex-governor, Shriniwas Patil.

Shivaji's direct descendant is back in the electoral fray, fighting the by-poll for the seat he vacated against former colleague, ex-MP and governor, Shriniwas Patil, while Shivendraraje fights for the Satara-Javali assembly seat. mid-day caught up with Bhosale on the campaign trail, where he explains why he quit the NCP and canvasses on local issues, promising to resolve them with the BJP's clout.

Excerpts.

Having forced an election on people in just five months, will you win comfortably?
This sort of movement [of leaders to the BJP] has happened for the first time in India. I haven't joined the BJP for any personal gains, but to develop the region by working in the ruling party. I wouldn't have contested by-poll if my supporters were against me. I am responsible to the people and had to take a decision. I'm born in a family that makes me even more responsible. It is my destiny to carry forward the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. When I fight for the public good, I don't care about myself.

Udayanraje Bhosle and cousin Shivendraraje Bhosle campaigning in Satara
Udayanraje Bhosle and cousin Shivendraraje Bhosle campaigning in Satara

Did the NCP fail you?
The special irrigation projects for Krishna Basin were started by the erstwhile BJP-Sena government in which I served as a minister. The Congress (NCP wasn't formed yet) was expected to execute similar projects because a maximum MLAs and MPs from Western Maharashtra were from the same party for years. The BJP and Sena did their bit and went out of power. Later, the NCP, which controlled the irrigation and Krishna Basin departments, did not complete the projects. Instead, they escalated the project costs and wasted huge amounts of money. Any irrigation project should be completed in 10 to 12 years, but the people have been denied the facility that would have raised their living standard. The two ministers (he did not name Ajit Pawar and Ramraje Nimbalkar) responsible for these projects should tell people about their unpardonable lapses.

Why did you not intervene then?
I did try telling the party the truth but I still don't know who delayed and stopped these all-important projects. I was ridiculed when I asked about it. There was a time when the same leaders ganged up against me and wanted to immerse me like a Ganesh idol. But my well-wishers, the people I work selflessly for, stood by me. You wouldn't have seen me today had the evil plans succeeded. The powerful NCP leaders have wasted a generation of poor farmers. Farmers my age (53) should have got water a long ago. They have lost their youth to the dirty politics of a select few. People know who they are. These leaders have no moral right to hold on to power and must answer people's questions. The projects, if completed in time, would have helped ease water scarcity in drought-hit areas. River-linking projects and the water pipeline grid would have become reality a long time ago. Now, only the Sahyadri can help us accumulate rainwater. We have a place in the neighbourhood (Mahabaleshwar) that received the highest rainfall in the country this year.

Why the BJP? Did it help you resolve issues?
Very much. The demands and suggestions I had been making to NCP leaders were heard by CM Devendra Fadnavis, who is my old friend. The NCP didn't do a single welfare scheme I suggested, but Fadnavis and his ministerial colleagues ensured that my reasonable demands were met. Henceforth, we will work together and bring about a great change. The BJP has been working to solve various problems without compromise or a partisan approach. People will support the BJP. I have some morality and self-consciousness left in me. That's why I chose BJP.

Your wishlist?
I want to do something substantial and sustainable, small but significant, for which Maharashtra remembers me even after I am gone forever. That's my only wish. I look up to Shivaji Maharaj who is remembered even after 350 years for his service to the underprivileged.

What else?
Migration to Mumbai is a serious problem in western Maharashtra. Why can't we create Mumbai-like opportunities in each district? People won't go there if they are given options to make a decent living. Ours is a virgin area that can be developed in many sectors like tourism, dry-land farming and service industry.

Will the BJP sweep western Maharashtra?
People will decide. Unprecedented public work is being carried out. It doesn't need Udayanraje to tell the people who to vote for. The public representatives who connect with people get reward from voters.

Will you take up a bigger role?
I repeatedly say politics is not my cup of tea. I worked for friends in university elections, but never contested. But when my town needed me, I started as a municipal council member. When (Gopinath) Munde asked me about assembly elections and then ministry, I told him very frankly that the positions should go to seniors. I told him I couldn't work within the confines of four walls. In the future, I don't want a minister's post because I believe I can work for my people even without it. I decide for myself, others don't enforce their decisions on me.

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