In an interview to Shubhangi Khapre, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan rubbishes Natwar Singh’s allegations; also speaks on party strategy for Assembly polls
Former external affairs minister Natwar Singh has alleged that 10, Janpath would often ask for important government files. In the past, you worked as a Union minister in the PMO. What has been your experience?
I can state with certainty that files were never sent to 10, Janpath (Sonia Gandhi’s office). It is rubbish. At least, as far as files from the PM O was concerned, they were neither sought nor sent. I really don’t know on what basis Natwar Singh has made the remarks. As the chairperson of the UPA, Sonia Gandhi had never asked PMO for any file to be shown or brought for discussion. I would also like to state that as the Congress chief she had every right to discuss the policy matters to ascertain how much of the promises made in election manifesto were being implemented; or to ensure the Congress ideology was not being deviated while evolving any policy decision or its implementation. Moreover, the Congress Working Committee often would discuss some critical issues that concerned the party and there was nothing wrong in that.
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So, you feel there was no violation of Official Secrets Act?
Where was the question? Now, let’s take the example of Maratha reservation. All that a party leader would require to point out is what should be done on the matter. Do you have to actually call for the government file and go through pages after pages? It’s never done. Similarly, on all critical issues, the CWC or the core committee had every right to raise the concerns and address them through dialogue with the government.
How do you see AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s renewed aggression in Parliament?
Well, it is good (smiles).
Is Priyanka Gandhi gearing up to play a pro-active role in the Congress?
I think its going to be her personal decision on whether she wants to play any direct role or not. I wouldn’t like to make any comment.
Will PM Narendra Modi remain a factor in Maharashtra elections?
Frankly speaking, I don’t think Modi factor will work in Assembly elections. If we look at the manner in which things are going at the Centre after he took over as the PM, there is a lot of criticism.
If it were so, why is your campaign centred around criticism of Modi?
No, the Congress is not going to emphasise on an anti-Modi campaign in the elections. On the contrary, my emphasis would be on projecting the development in the last five years. I believe there is a need to highlight several policy decisions taken by the state government.
What is the status of the Congress-NCP alliance?
I am confident the Congress and NCP will contest the 2014 elections as allies. I don’t want to hazard any guess on the seat-sharing formula. But I can reveal that there is going to be some smart swapping of seats.
How do you explain the controversial decisions related to Maratha and Muslim reservation that has led others like Dhangars and Lingayats to seek quota?
The issue of Maratha and Muslim reservation had been pending for a very long time. It was based on aspirations of a section of the communities, which sought reservation in education and jobs.