SHUBHANGI KHAPRE:Is it going to be a tightrope walk for you as the big two,Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde,exercise their influence in the party?
DF:My nomination to the post of state president was unanimous. This is a new beginning and I dont perceive any problems for myself. Leaders have differences on issues. But that is democracy. In the Congress,I know there are some leaders who dont sit together. Our leaders sit together and talk. Our partys motto is that difference of opinion is acceptable but not differences of intention. We are now in election mode and the party understands we should aim at gaining power at the Centre and the state. Both leaders are working closely towards this goal.
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER:What are the key issues being focused on before elections?
In the past 15 years,quality of administration and governance has been absolutely bad. There is just no governance in Maharashtra. Whether it is infrastructure,agriculture or power,we are lagging behind and the state is struggling to meet basic demands of people. At Palghar,on the outskirts of Mumbai,there is load-shedding for 12-16 hours. Nearly 50 per cent of households in the state do not get tap water and in districts such as Gondia and Gadchiroli,82 per cent dont get tap water. Around 33 per cent people in the state do not have access to proper toilets and nearly 700 villages in Vidarbha are still not connected by road.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE:Why were you voted out if the government had done great work in 1999? Why arent voters able to perceive BJP-Sena as a credible alternative to Congress-NCP?
We were good at governance but bad at politics. Our democracy is about politics and governance and as we were never in power in the state earlier,we failed to tackle that front. In 1999,we hoped we would return to power because our performance was excellent. But we fell short of 8-10 seats. The Congress relies on the 30 percent votes from the Muslim and Dalit communities. But now this is changing.
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER:As setting up an educational institute is significantly expensive and profit-making is not considered wrong,do you think the Fee Regulatory Act will be accepted?
The Supreme Court gave its verdict in the TMA Pai Foundation case 10 years ago,in which it said a profit-making institution cannot set up an educational institution. It has to be a registered charitable institution. Therefore,profiteering is against the law. During a raid in a Pune college,which has many institutes in Mumbai as well,Rs 106 crore was found. This is money taken as donation for admissions. Maharashtra ranks 17th in the country in terms of primary education,which is behind some much smaller states. So,quality education for all and skill development are the way forward. For nearly seven crore young people to become a demographic advantage,at least 50 lakh people must be trained every year,while we have infrastructure for training only one lakh.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE:What solution does your party have for solving the irrigation crises in the state?
The key is to focus not just on big irrigation projects but also smaller ones such as barrages and conservation projects. Khandesh,Marathwada and most part of western Maharashtra falls in the rain-shadow zone,which does not get assured rainfall. Despite this,farmers are still planting sugarcane,which consumes a lot of water, in these regions. The focus has been on big projects as it assures big money. Small and medium projects cost Rs 15-100 crore. A big dam project cost is Rs 3,000-5,000 crore and the rate of cut for ministers is 10 per cent. So the ministers concerned were not interested in taking up small projects or completing the big ones.
STUTI SHUKLA:How much of the funds allocated for drought relief is actually being spent on relief measures and how much is being pocketed?
Most of the drought relief fund is being spent in western Maharashtra. I think 40 per cent of the money is being spent on works that are to be carried out during the drought situation and 60 per cent is being spent on ongoing irrigation projects. There are certain lift-irrigation projects in which no bills have been paid for many years. Taking advantage of the drought situation,these bills are cleared from the drought relief fund.
SAGNIK CHOWDHURY:Where do you see the issue of local body tax going? What is the alternative to LBT?
LBT is not an alternative to octroi because if there are so many taxes,business will never become hassle-free. Gujarat has added one per cent surcharge on VAT and abolished octroi. Maharashtra followed suit with one per cent surcharge. If you want to make corporations autonomous,amend one section and give them the authority to collect VAT.
TABASSUM BARNAGARWALA:A senior BJP leader,Madhu Chavan,was recently charged with rape. How will this dent the image of your party?
Madhu Chavan explained his position to us and we initially left it upon him to take a decision. He gave me his resignation a few days ago. He says the case is false but he will come back only after the case is resolved in court and if it rules in his favour. But such an instance certainly has a bearing on the partys image.
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER:What do you think about police being brought into the ambit of the Transfer Act where politicians exercise control over transfer and promotion of all police officials?
The decision is absolutely improper and irrational. Police is a disciplined force. If the Director General of Police is powerless,how will he control the force? The Act is in force since 2005. Why have they suddenly decided to withdraw transfer powers from DGP? I am surprised R R Patil,who is known for his integrity,has taken such a decision. Maharashtra is one state that has not carried out amendments in police reforms as ordered by the Supreme Court. In fact,I had moved a private members Bill on police reforms in the state Assembly.
SMITA NAIR:How will this decision of giving transfer powers to the home department help the ruling alliance in the upcoming elections?
There are a number of people in the police force who are known to take political sides. Such people will certainly work in favour of certain politicians from the ruling alliance.
SHUBHANGI KHAPRE:Do you think the home department should be handled by the Chief Minister?
The power tussle is evident because the CM and Home Minister are from different parties. If it was a one-party government,it would have hardly mattered even if the home ministry was a separate charge held by a Cabinet minister.
P VAIDYANATHAN IYER:Maharashtra comes second to Uttar Pradesh in terms of number of riots. There have been communal flashpoints in these riots. What is the reason?
Statistics will show that the number of riots has increased. But the number of instances of communal violence has come down. There is a marked difference. The riots have been caused mostly due to lawlessness.
SRINATH RAO:BJP has just lost Karnataka. How does it impact your chances of winning at the Centre and in Maharashtra?
Karnataka results will not have a repercussion on national or state elections. But it is still a lesson for everyone in the BJP. We cannot justify what the BJP did there. We created great infrastructure. But we could not deliver good governance. But the way people reacted against corruption in Karnataka,they will act in the same manner against the Congress and its allies at the Centre and Maharashtra.
SAGNIK CHOWDHURY:How have your equations with the Shiv Sena changed after Bal Thackerays death? Are you now in a position to demand more seats?
Nothing has changed in the equations between BJP and Sena. There are certain seats which Sena and BJP have been losing for many years,so we will exchange these seats this time. Also,we are tapping all possible anti-Congress forces and trying to bring them together.
MAYURA JANWALKAR:NCP leaders have been pressing for reservations for the Maratha community. Do you support this?
We support reservation for Marathas in education and employment. We are against reservation for Marathas in politics because even at present,110 out of 289 MLAs are Marathas. Since the formation of Maharashtra,the Maratha representation has never gone below 109. A section is economically and educationally backward,which needs to be addressed.
SRINATH RAO:Can we expect Gujarat CM Narendra Modi campaigning in the state next year?
We will certainly have him for the campaign. The party is finding a bigger role for him in the national campaign as he has a national appeal,based on his model of development.
(Transcribed by Stuti Shukla)