Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray just concluded his visit to Goa after sealing the party’s pre-poll alliance with Subhash Velingkar-led Goa Suraksh Manch. He said the two groups have already agreed to the terms of the alliance in-principle, and will soon come out with other modalities and list of candidates.
The 58-year-old leader, who is on the lookout for opportunities in other poll bound states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab (based on favourable local response), speaks to The Indian Express of the regional party’s aspiration to establish itself at the national level.
Given your late entry to Goa, close to the polling season, what kind of reception you think the party will get?
We have been in Goa for many years as a party. But since we believed BJP and MGP held similar views like us. We sincerely felt as well-wishers we must not divide votes of those parties and subsequently we did not go beyond Maharashtra. You may call it strategic error or whatever but, yes, it was our mistake of not establishing ourselves in Goa. However, now since our point of views (with BJP) are clearly different, we have come out to assure people that Shiv Sena is serious about contesting polls and we will not repeat our mistakes (of relying on BJP and MGP).
Watch what else is making news
What do you mean by ‘point of views’ being different?
With BJP we have disagreements on several issues especially related to governance and ideology. People are frustrated, they tell us that their aspirations were betrayed by the BJP. In consultation with the people, our karyakarthas have prepared a list of issues and during the poll-campaign we will highlight each one of them.
In Goa, people are quite sensitive of non-native political parties contesting from their home turf. AAP, for one, has been facing this challenge of striking a chord with the people. Do you think your entry will be accepted by the Goan electorate?
Outsider, what outsider? Isn’t BJP an outsider party with local cadre. In fact we existed in Goa even before BJP was in Goa’s political scenario. But like I said we did not want to create trust deficit with partners pursuing same agenda of Hindutva, that’s why we remained in the background. We already have our shakas functioning across the state, we will use that network of ours to solidify our grass-root level support.
Last year, going beyond Maharashtra, you had already contested in the Bihar state polls. Are you satisfied with the party’s performance? What are the key takeaways from Bihar which will help you while contesting from states like Goa?
See, the 2015 Bihar election was different. We had barely a month to campaign and yet we received an overwhelming voter support. But, we have not stopped there, election is part of a political life, we are looking for our relationship with the states beyond that. Even though I have not been to Bihar, our leader Sanjay Raut is in regular contact with party cadres and we are further reaching-out to more voters in the region. Besides Goa, we are in the cadre building process in Uttar Pradesh as well, even Punjab, maybe, if the locals want to connect with us. Although we have party cadre in Karnataka, it has not been decided if we should contest from there, but we will keep our options open.
Given that both Shiv Sena and GSM are more personality centred political parties, do you think the two will be at loggerheads at some point?
On the contrary, I have met Subhash Velingkar for the first time on Saturday. We had a healthy and lengthy discussion and, as of now, we found ourselves on the same page on many issues such as Marathi language as Medium of Instruction, developmental issues, Hindutva, employment for the youth, good governance. Although there are some minor discussion on technical issues like seat-sharing and other modalities, but all the other aspects will be resolved.
So, can it be understood that Subhash Velingkar will have a free-hand in running the administration if GSM-Shiv Sena government comes to power?
We are okay with Velingkar handling things the way he wants. He can steer the alliance. He will receive total support from our cadre base.
In your speech on Saturday, along with the BJP, you have also expressed some reservation about Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) drifting from its ‘primary agenda’. But your ally GSM is aggressively pursuing them as ally, will you be comfortable to turn this into a tripartite set-up?
See, we don’t have anything against MGP. We had direct relation with them about 15-20 years back. We can be allies and, again, I repeat we are okay with how Velingkar wants to run the state.
What is your take on casino and mining issue in the state, with none of the parties so far have been able to arrive at a logical conclusion to meet the people’s aspirations?
On both these issues, keeping their ‘bad’ aspects apart, one needs to evaluate if they are of any benefits to the locals either in terms of employment or revenue generation. If the answer is ‘yes’, then what to do? we need to think. It will be premature to comment on both the issues in general as we are yet to speak to the stakeholders and take feedback from the public. Only once that takes place, we would be able to take a firm stand on our decision.