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Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Exclusive Lok Sabha elections 2024 I am Balasaheb Thackerays follower people will vote for that says Rahul Shewale

Exclusive | Lok Sabha elections 2024: I am Balasaheb Thackeray’s follower, people will vote for that, says Rahul Shewale

Updated on: 24 April,2024 07:13 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Eshan Kalyanikar |

Shiv Sena stalwart defends legacy amid ‘traitor’ accusations and internal strife ahead of elections

Exclusive | Lok Sabha elections 2024: I am Balasaheb Thackeray’s follower, people will vote for that, says Rahul Shewale

Shiv Sena’s South Central candidate Rahul Shewale. Pic/Kirti Surve

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Exclusive | Lok Sabha elections 2024: I am Balasaheb Thackeray’s follower, people will vote for that, says Rahul Shewale

The city’s South Central seat has been the turf of undivided Shiv Sena since the 90s when it sent the late Mohan Rawale to Parliament, holding the seat for five terms until Indian National Congress (INC) leader Eknath Gaikwad took over in 2009. However, the seat returned to Sena in 2014 when first-time Lok Sabha candidate Rahul Shewale won; he has held it for the past decade.

In 2019, Shewale garnered 4,23,743 votes in Mumbai’s South Central constituency, defeating Gaikwad, who stood second with 2,72,774 votes. With areas like Anushakti Nagar, Chembur, Dharavi, Sion Koliwada, Wadala, and Mahim, Shewale describes this seat as the birthplace of Sena. However, this time around, the battle is not between Sena and the INC; it is the battle of Sena vs. Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) after the split in the party in 2022.

An interview with Shewale:

Do you believe you can still win over the masses without the Thackeray family and with the ‘traitor’ tag?
I am Balasaheb Thackeray's follower, and people will vote for that. In a previous election, it was the voters’ attachment to Balasaheb’s name that secured my seat in Parliament. The people in my constituency have a strong affinity for Shiv Sena and Balasaheb, given the party’s deep roots here. Additionally, the Modi wave contributed to my victory last time. 

I am also a follower of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s ideology.
It is also worth remembering that the Shiv Sena name and the party symbol are behind me. I am also backed by the party that made Ram Mandir possible and scrapped Article 370.

Regarding being labelled a traitor, I was elected to Parliament through the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, not with the Congress. The actions taken by some MLAs do not reflect our approach. My constituents are aware of this. We engaged in a month-long discussion with Uddhav Saheb and tried to convince him to strike another alliance with the BJP.

Candidates have yet to be declared in some Shiv Sena strongholds such as Thane. Do you think this will harm the party’s prospects in this election?
The elections are scheduled for May 20, and as of now, there has been no notification. Typically, we announce all the candidates a few days before the notification, so the list will be released soon. This won’t give the Opposition any advantage because some of these candidates are already campaigning in their constituencies, even though we haven’t officially announced them.

How do you view Anil Desai, your primary opponent from the Thackeray Sena?
He is a gentleman, and I have respect for him. We are friends. However, he has spent most of his political career sitting at Shiv Sena Bhavan and not on the field. Uddhav Sahab’s move to put him as the Lok Sabha candidate from South Central is meant to destroy his political career.

Do you see any signs of anti-incumbency in your constituency?
My performance over the past 10 years speaks volumes. I’ve addressed numerous infrastructure-related issues, improved public transport, and enhanced amenities through collaboration with the state government and municipal corporation.

The main issue here revolves around redevelopment. Numerous projects have been stalled due to developer-related issues or other reasons. Over the past five years, I’ve ensured progress on several fronts. Dharavi redevelopment, BDD chawl redevelopment and the improvement of refugee colonies in Sion Koliwada and Chembur are among them. Given the prevalence of slums, SRA projects are of utmost importance. My goal is to complete all significant redevelopment initiatives in the next term.

How do you address the concerns raised by residents of Dharavi?
People want development in Dharavi. There are two different populations there, one which fits the eligibility criteria as they were able to furnish documents and the other are those who are not as they do not have documents. The project will be providing housing even to the ineligible population only that they will be shifted elsewhere and not in the same area.

Uddhav Thackeray’s Dharavi model for dealing with COVID-19 garnered significant praise. How do you reflect on that period?
The management of COVID-19 in Dharavi was a success because of me, and I was sidelined by the Thackeray family. Not once was I credited for any work done, and instead, Uddhav-ji praised ward officers like Kiran Dighavkar. This was one of the main reasons for leaving. I was the one who provided vaccine access to people there, brought in health education programmes, arranged for ration kits, and facilitated the journey of migrant labourers in Dharavi back to their homes. All this as the leadership was not venturing out.

My anger towards Uddhav-ji is more because of this: no credit or not a single word of appreciation for all the efforts I took. All the credits were only taken by him and Aaditya Thackeray.

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