You have decided to enter Goa’s electoral politics. How confident are you about the people accepting you?
We have been in Goa for many years. But since we believed the BJP and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party held views similar to ours, we felt we should not divide their votes and therefore did not go beyond Maharashtra. You may call it a strategic error or whatever, but yes, it was our mistake not to establish ourselves in Goa. Now that our points of view are clearly different, we have come out to assure the people that the Shiv Sena is serious about contesting the elections and that we will not repeat our mistakes.
What do you mean by points of view being different?
With the BJP we have disagreements on several issues, especially relating to governance and ideology. People are frustrated, they tell us that their aspirations were betrayed by the BJP. Our karyakartas have done a reality check on the BJP after consulting the people, and we will list all of that during our campaign.
But will the people of Goa accept a party from outside the state?
What outsider? Isn’t the BJP an party from outside with a local cadre? In fact, we existed in Goa even before the BJP became part of Goa’s politics… but we kept to the background. We have shakhas functioning across the state, and we will will use that network to consolidate our support base at the grassroots.
You contested in Bihar too. Were there any lessons from that experience that could help you in Goa?
See, in Bihar it was different; we had barely a month to campaign and yet we got overwhelming voter support. Although I have not been there, our leader Sanjay Raut is in regular contact with the party cadre in Bihar and we are reaching out to more voters in the region. Besides Goa, we are in the process of building a cadre in Uttar Pradesh too, and even Punjab may be an option if people there want to connect with us. We have a party cadre in Karnataka but have not decided if we should contest from there; we will keep that option open.
Like your ally Goa Suraksha Manch backed by Subhash Velingkar, the Shiv Sena is seen as a personality-centric party. Don’t you foresee a rivalry emerging at some point?
On the contrary. I have met Subhash Velingkar for the first time, we have had a long discussion, and as of now we have found our views similar on many aspects — Marathi language as medium of instruction, developmental issues, Hindutva, good governance. Although there are some minor technical issues such as seat-sharing, all these will be resolved as I keep visiting Goa.
So, if a GSM-Shiv Sena government does comes to power, can it be understood that Velingkar will have a free hand in running the administration?
We are okay with Velingkar handling things the way he wants to. He can steer the alliance. He will receive full support from our cadre base.
During one of your speeches, you said both the BJP and the MGP have drifted from their primary agenda. But your ally GSM is aggressively pursuing them as an ally.
See, we have nothing against the MGP. We had a direct understanding with them about 15, 20 years ago. We can be allies and, I repeat, we are okay with how Velingkar wants to run affairs in the state.
As far as the issues of casinos and mining are concerned, no party seems to have met the people’s aspirations. How will you approach these?
On both issues, their negative aspects apart, one needs to evaluate if they are of any benefit to locals in terms of either employment or revenue generation. If the answer is yes, we need to think what one should do. It will be premature to comment on these two issues in general as we are yet to speak to the stakeholders and take public opinion.