‘BJP is silent on Hindutva, this is why it has faced defeats in Hindi heartland’https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/bjp-is-silent-on-hindutva-this-is-why-it-has-faced-defeats-in-hindi-heartland-arvind-sawant-5525933/

‘BJP is silent on Hindutva, this is why it has faced defeats in Hindi heartland’

Shiv Sena leader and South Mumbai Member of Parliament Arvind Sawant speaks to The Indian Express about his demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the Rafale deal, about Hindutva and Shiv Sena-BJP relations ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

‘BJP is silent on Hindutva, this is why it has faced defeats in Hindi heartland’
Sawant at his Dadar office on Saturday. (Express: Prashant Nadkar)

In the Lok Sabha, you spoke on the Rafale deal and supported the Opposition’s demand for a JPC to probe the deal. What is the Sena’s stand on Rafale?

It’s not about the Opposition demand, we have our own stand. In fact, I have raised a few basic questions on the Rafale issue. When a question was raised earlier on the issue, the government had said that the “negotiations have reached to an impasse”. So, I asked what is that impasse? In June 2015, when this government was in power, it said that the negotiations had reached an impasse and therefore it had withdrawn the agreement. Then, how did you reopen it? In the meantime, the Prime Minister went to France to finalise the Rafale deal but the defence minister was not with him. Why was the agreement done with a company formed 15 days before the visit and existed only on paper? The government should have said that it has a competent company, HAL, as an offset partner. The BJP, which alleges that the Congress is corrupt and a liar, claims to be clean and transparent. If you are transparent, then what is the fear? I did not support the Opposition. I feel we shouldn’t have fear if we are clean. So, I said go for a JPC probe and everything will become clear. It is also an opportunity to expose the Opposition and its lies.

Are there any talks going on between Shiv Sena and BJP for an alliance? Any ultimatum or deadline given to Sena by BJP to take a call on the alliance?

The party leadership will take a call on this, as it is a policy decision. We didn’t break the alliance. Since the 2014 Assembly polls, Sena has been fighting polls on its own. The party president announced in 2016 that Sena will fight polls solo, and he hasn’t changed his stand. We are not saying anything on the alliance. If anybody has spoken to Uddhavji, they should say so.

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At a rally in Pandharpur, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said the alliance with BJP will be decided by the people. What does that mean?

The party president made this statement in the context of what happened in Uttarakhand, Telangana and Mizoram. The regional parties came to power there without having any prominent face to counter the BJP. When people decide, then Indira Gandhi also faced defeat at the polls. But people again gave her a chance. So, he said it is for the people to decide and a similar revolution should happen in Maharashtra.

At the Dussehra rally, Uddhav Thackeray raised the issue of Ram Temple and announced his dates for an Ayodhya visit. There were talks that the Sena would forge an alliance with BJP on Hindutva. Is that still possible?

It is sheer disappointment for the people that the Prime Minister has refused to promulgate an ordinance on the temple construction immediately. When we said ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’, we promised that we will build a Ram temple, remove Article 370 and bring in a uniform civil code if we come to power. We are demanding an ordinance because the judicial process has been delayed. While RSS and VHP are speaking on Hindutva, the BJP is silent on the issue. This is why it has faced defeats in the Hindi heartland.

Is Hindutva is now a greater agenda for the Sena than the sons of the soil?

Are the sons of the soil not part of Hindutva? Our Hindutva is not religion-based, but is nationalistic Hindutva. Balasaheb used to say that our Hindutva is not one of ringing bells in temples but to protect the country from an attack. So, the nation is first for us and then the state. This has been our continuous stand.

How is the Sena preparing for the Lok Sabha polls? Will it contest all 48 seats in Maharashtra?

The party president will take a call on the number of seats. We are always prepared to fight polls. We just wait for orders of the party president.

Having held rallies in Ayodhya and contested seats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and other states, does the Shiv Sena now plan to contest Lok Sabha polls outside Maharashtra?

We will see. We might contest since we contested the Assembly polls recently. We could not fight the polls with full preparations. The Sena was present across the country during Balasaheb’s time. He sacrificed it for Hindutva, to avoid the division of Hindu votes, and restricted himself to Maharashtra. It was clear that the Centre was left to BJP and the state to Sena. The current BJP leadership has forgotten this. It is now time to remind them.

What are your major achievements as South Mumbai MP? Are you recontesting?

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So far, the party has not asked me not to contest. I have been raising various issues related to the inadequate infrastructure of the suburban Railways, eastern waterfront, Mumbai Port Trust, coastal road and classical language status for Marathi among others. But some of these issues are still pending with the Centre. For local issues, the BMC is very strong in carrying out works and is doing well in my constituency.