Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said Wednesday that regional parties should be barred from contesting Lok Sabha elections.
“Regional parties are not allowed to contest the national elections in Germany. Similarly, we must prohibit regional parties from contesting the Lok Sabha polls. Only then will the polity move towards a two- or three-party system like the one that exists in the United States,” Chavan said at an Idea Exchange interaction at The Indian Express.
Chavan also criticised the BJP for turning the Lok Sabha campaign into a presidential-style contest. “I am personally against the presidential style… We are not ready for that,” he said. “We wanted to keep it (presidential-style contest) away and even campaigned against it. It, however, did not come out right. The RSS succeeded in its plan,” he said.
Stating that BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was marketing himself like a “soap brand”, Chavan said, “Maharashtra has developed more than Gujarat, but we have not publicised it the way Modi has.”
Chavan admitted that a high turnout of first-time voters could work against the Congress-NCP alliance. “The younger generation is impatient. They are angry about unresolved problems. Earlier, they would express their anger during coffee meetings with friends but did not really come out to vote. It could be different this time if they vote. It will certainly be an anti-establishment vote,” he said.
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Chavan is banking on consolidation of the Congress’s traditional Muslim vote bank. “The fact remains that Modi’s past record worries us all. It worries minorities even more. It is natural for the minority community to see that he does not come to power. They will try to use the best option available to ensure this. With AAP not being a big factor in Maharashtra, they will naturally gravitate towards the Congress,” he said.
Stating that the AAP would not have much impact in Maharashtra, he said, “The AAP is a version of NOTA (none of the above) with a face attached to it.”
Chavan also criticised Modi for mounting personal attacks on Congress leaders. “I am dismayed at the vision of the BJP’s prime ministerial contender. I have never seen a prime ministerial aspirant stoop so low. With Modi taking the political discourse to a personal level, the counter-attacks have begun. This has vitiated the discourse,” he said.
“It was for the declared prime ministerial candidate to spell out a vision. But not a single advertisement issued by them (BJP) talks about his vision. This person (Modi) has painted a huge vague picture of himself, without saying anything concrete. I would much rather hear him saying that your (Congress’s) food security law is nonsense or talk about other policy issues. For the first time, I heard him talk on economy in an interview on Tuesday,” he said.
Admitting that the Congress-led UPA faced a challenge, Chavan identified lack of communication as the biggest failure of the Manmohan Singh government. “It would have been useful for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to communicate more often. When I was in the Prime Minister’s Office, we had advised him to hold national press conferences every three months. He held it once or twice but chose not to do it thereafter. Singh speaking would have definitely made a difference in making people understand policies. It was an error of judgment on his part,” he said.