Updated: April 5, 2022 9:19:13 am
NCP Maharashtra president and Irrigation Minister Jayant Patil talks about his party’s strategy to take on the BJP, the friction within Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and his fears of communal strife with impending elections in the state.
The MVA government faced financial constraints due to Covid-19 pandemic soon after coming to power. With almost all restrictions being revoked, what is the government’s plan regarding irrigation projects?
In the last two years, we have completed 34 major and medium irrigation projects, which have been providing water to almost three lakh hectare (ha) of land. The budgetary provision for irrigation has increased in the last three years – from Rs 8283 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 10,235 in 2020-21.This year, we have allocated Rs 13,650 crore. We have taken up 104 new projects, which will be completed by the end of 2024. By the end of the current term of the government, we will have completed 104 projects, helping irrigate 2.45 lakh ha. This is over and above the 2.92 lakh ha that has reaped benefits due to our projects. In all, our projects will help irrigate nearly 5 lakh ha.
There have been complaints from Shiv Sena and Congress MLAs over allocation of funds.
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This complaint has been addressed. At present, there is no misunderstanding about distribution of funds. In some pockets, local dynamics are at play. It is a fact that we have fought elections against each other. However, there is an understanding among senior leaders that MVA needs to be further strengthened at the local level. In the next few months, you will see greater coordination among the three parties.
Do you plan to contest the upcoming municipal elections in alliance with Congress and Sena?
Our strategy is very simple. We will give priority to MVA. If not, at least two parties should come together. But priority is to form an alliance of all three parties… plus we have SP with us, we have Bachu Kadu’s party and we have four to five other parties supporting us. So, we will try to bring everybody together at municipal or district level. Somewhere it will happen, somewhere it may not happen, somewhere partially you will see it has happened.
What are the plans for BMC polls?
This time Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP, if they come together, there will be an alliance or at least two parties will come together. Our option is to have an alliance with one party or all the parties.
With the kind of strength BJP, do you think the only option the Opposition has is to fight as an alliance against it?
No, not necessary, BJP is not strong everywhere. First of all, you should go into the history of BJP. The party has grown on the support of the Shiv Sena, when they were in alliance. It used to reach 50-60 seats while the Sena would get 80. In the 2014 elections, it got 122 seats largely due to the Modi wave. In 2019, there was no wave and its tally dropped. Of the 105 MLAs elected, close to 20-25 per cent were those who had quit Congress-NCP to join BJP. In reality, BJP’s strength is not more than 70 or 80 MLAs in the state. With regards to its clout, I guess that it was Ajit Wadekar who had said while playing in England that the Indian cricket team faced 13 players, which included the two umpires. We, too, are playing against the BJP, plus the central agencies.
There is a perception that NCP is playing it soft against BJP.
The NCP is not soft. Our Minister Nawab Malik has exposed central agencies. We, too, are saying that BJP is misusing agencies. How many times should we repeat the same thing? We are not silent. Whenever it is needed, we speak. The only thing is that when we speak, adequate publicity is not given.
Even Shiv Sena has complained about this.
What should we do to prove we are aggressive? In public perception, it is NCP that is a prominent Opposition to BJP and we have been affected by it and are fighting it too… For example, in the case of Kashmir Files movie, it was us who spoke against it first. This question should rather be asked to other parties.
It is being observed that BJP has access to information from the state’s bureaucracy and police, like the way Devendra Fadnavis has come up with several pen drives. Do you think that your officers are helping BJP?
I don’t think state bureaucrats or police are helping BJP. However, as I said that we are facing off against a team of 13. I believe all central agencies must be helping BJP. Moreover, there is no need for us to distrust our own officers. Devendra Fadanvis is the leader of Opposition and a former CM of the state. He may have how varied sources to get this information.
After MVA came to power, Sharad Pawar had spoken of how the previous government used the police to frame activists. Announcements were made about the government inquiring into the roles of such officers. What’s the status of such probes?
In the case of Rashmi Shukla, there were a few complaints, which are now under inquiry. Similarly, in the case of Param Bir Singh, the investigation has started. So, as stated by Mr Pawar, inquiries are happening. Ours is not a vindictive government. We do not want to target any officer.
What is the status of the probe into Fadnavis government scheme Jalyukta Shivar?
I do not have detailed information off hand on the probe. But in some cases, they have found irregularities. The scheme was implemented across Maharashtra but at many places, money was spent without any work being done on the ground level. But it is not possible that (the probe will) reach till the then CM. It may lead to one of the officials. After all, he was not the signatory on the documents.
Was the scheme effective?
This scheme existed in Maharashtra even earlier. It was called ‘Pani Adwa Pani Jirwa’. There is nothing special in it. It was only marketed well. But not implemented properly.
There is something that BJP is doing right for it to have this kind of success in India. What do you think BJP is doing that other parties are not?
Grassroot level and booth level work has to be strong, then only you can win. The BJP has understood this game. If you sit in Mumbai and keep saying a lot of things against BJP, it will not work. I am confident that in the next two years, our grassroot work and party structure will be very strong. That is what we are trying to do. Now, we cannot compare ourselves with the machinery that BJP has and uses. We cannot match its level of aggression, where they take support of Hinduism. That is one additional and emotional tool they use. But in Maharashtra, if we work properly at grassroot level, our numbers in 2024 polls will increase.
You have been the home minister of the state. Now, with polls coming, communal incidents are happening across the state. Do you foresee communal trouble in the coming days and what is the MVA doing to ensure there are no such conflicts?
MVA is very alert about this and as we are getting closer to local body elections, some attempts may be made to create trouble between two communities/religious groups. So, we are very alert. As you rightly said, there could be an attempt to create some riots/dangas in Maharashtra. So, MVA and the home department needs to be very alert on this.
Do you think the communal politics that worked in UP could also work in Maharashtra?
Communal politics will work in certain pockets. We cannot totally ignore it. Minority-dominated constituencies will behave differently. For instance, Malegaon Outer will behave differently than Malegaon Assembly Central. People react to communal politics.
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