In a conversation with Shubhangi Khapre, state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis says the decision to split from Sena was ‘extremely painful’, shares strategy to transform BJP as the single-largest party in Maharashtra.
Shiv Sena believes BJP has betrayed the trust that was founded on the common ideology of Hindutva. How do you explain?
Where is the question of betrayal when it was BJP, which was taking the initiative throughout to make the alliance work through give and take. To the contrary, the Shiv Sena stuck to its 150-plus (seats) demand. It was not willing to compromise on the chief minister’s post and more seats. It was unwilling to look at the concerns of the BJP and smaller allies who wanted a reasonable share of seats.
BJP could have saved the alliance by taking a step back?
Yes, the BJP that demanded 135 seats agreed to come down to 127 seats. But the same was not reciprocated by the Shiv Sena. They refused to let go of a single seat. Their formula was 150-plus. What does it indicate? Their chief concern was to win more seats and stake claim to the CM’s post. Where was the concern for other allies?
The general perception is that the Narendra Modi-lead BJP is out to finish the regional forces. Take the case of Haryana, and now Maharashtra.
In a democratic system, an individual or a political party cannot finish regional parties. The people take a decision and determine the fate of individuals and political parties. In case of Haryana, the matter was blown out of proportion. However, Maharashtra was a different case and I admit we never undermined their political strength nor considered them separate from us. It had been a bond for the last 25 years. And I admit it was not an easy decision to say good bye.
Maharashtra is set for a multi-cornered contest. Are you looking for new permutation and combination?
Not at all. As I said, BJP believes it is its duty to keep the alliance partners’ trust intact. We are committed to generously giving seat share to Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Rashtriya Samaj Party, Republican Party of India and Shiv Sangram. We are willing to accommodate the candidates of allies in winnable seats across the state. But we are confident the BJP along with allies will emerge as ‘number one party’ in Maharashtra.
In a multi-cornered contest, don’t you think caste and regional politics will dominate Moditva factor?
I dismiss this argument. During the Lok Sabha elections, the same apprehensions were being voiced to dismiss the Modi wave. But people took their own decision and voted for Modi. In the Assembly elections, I am confident the Modi factor will be very significant in determining the outcome.
In the Lok Sabha polls, Narendra Modi was the PM candidate. In the Assembly elections, who is the face for CM?
Let me reassure that even in the Assembly elections Narendra Modi will be the face. The BJP will have an advantage as its people can not only deliver but also effectively coordinate with the Centre and work for the development of state.
Is Sena likely to play Marathi-versus-Gujarati plank?
It does not worry us as we are going to sincerely pitch our campaign on development plank. The anti-incumbency of Congress and NCP government will be the thrust of our campaign. I don’t believe the narrow partisan issues based on caste, community and religion would play any role in elections. People want development and they know Modi’s leadership at the Centre and the BJP government in the state will deliver results.