UNDER attack for mediating with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to allow the release of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Muskhil, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today defended the government’s role and denied that he had brokered any deal.
“What is the whole purpose of raising a hue and cry over my meeting Film Producers Guild and MNS to find an amicable solution to end the dispute over the film? Where is the question of my brokering a deal? Or where is the question of compromising on any principle? If talks can be held with the Hurriyat and Naxals, what is wrong in talking with the MNS,” he told The Indian Express in an interview on Monday.
“Is is not a good sign that the government has pulled the curtains down on the issue through discussion across the table? Can you overlook the general public mood which is all set to celebrate Diwali? If I had not intervened, wouldn’t I have been accused of keeping the tension brewing?” he said.
He was trying to counter the widespread criticism of his handling of the controversy after the MNS demanded that the producers and those who had signed on Pakistan artists for their movies pay Rs 5 crore to the Army Welfare Fund as “penance.”
Fadnavis denied that he was a party to forcing the film producers to shell out Rs 5 crore for the fund. An angry Fadnavis said: “The Film Producers Guild approached me to discuss the problem with MNS. At the meeting I made it very clear that the government will not compromise on law and order. I cited the fact that my police force had cracked the whip against 12 MNS activists and would do the same if they took the law in their hands.”
The chief minister said: “Deploying additional force at every theatre to ensure release of film was not a problem. But I believed why should I allow tension during the festival season when people and police want to enjoy Diwali.”
The Film Producers Guild and MNS came forward saying that they wanted to end the deadlock, he said. “At the meeting, it was producer Karan Johar who expressed his desire to make a contribution of Rs 5 crore towards the welfare of the families of the martyred soldiers. To which I categorically said there should be no such compulsion. Yet, if you want to show your deshbhakti, there is the Army welfare relief fund where you can help,” he said.
“Now, every word of what transpired at the meeting was conveyed clearly by the film producers, MNS and the government. Yet, if there is a design to distort facts to malign the image of the government, it will not work,” he said.
With his government set to complete two years at the end of the month, Fadnavis said that the political challenge arising out of Maratha rallies and the tension with ally Shiv Sena did not pose a threat to his chief ministerial post or the stability of his government. “I can state with absolute certainty that I will not be removed because I am a Brahmin. I am here to stay for five years.”
“My party will act only if I make a mistake or am found completely lacking in carrying out my duties as chief minister of Maharashtra,” he said. “Personally, I believe the real goal of my leading Maharashtra is to bring parivartan (transformation) for larger public welfare. Power politics is a means to work towards the destination keeping, in mind and heart, the people and their problems.”
The chief minister said, “Both in (my) personal life and in the BJP which is the ruling party, the emphasis in on inclusive politics. Frankly, the caste label has never stuck on me and there’s no reason why people would fall prey to handful of vested interests trying to exploit the rallies to take centrestage or reaffirm their lost identity (referring to sections within Congress-NCP).”
He denied that caste confrontation would mar the government’s record. The government was committed to Maratha reservation and to safeguarding the rights of Dalits/OBCs and the existing quota and Atrocities Act.
“The silent Maratha rallies have exposed the rich-and-poor divide in the community and government would address the problems of the society for which we have given Rs 1000 crore fee=concessions for economically backward students for higher professional studies and lodging.” he said.