Shiv Sena scion Aaditya Thackeray says the Sena has decided to go national and will contest polls in Rajasthan and MP next year, like it did in Gujarat and Goa. The government of the day is not listening to people’s ‘mann ki baat’, the Yuva Sena chief told The Indian Express in an interview. Excerpts.
What is your vision to expand the Sena?
Firstly, we are going national. As we fought elections in Gujarat and Goa, we will contest in Rajasthan next year and Madhya Pradesh. In UP, Bihar and Kashmir, we have got a good amount of votes. We might contest in Kerala. The Shiv Sena is going ahead with a national agenda because we are probably the only regional party that has a national voice. We are taken seriously at the national level. We have a certain vision for development. For example, coastal road, central garden at the racecourse and the cycle tracks. We will have vision plans for cities and states across the country. They will have their own issues and so we have to be glocal.
With the Gujarat results out, how is the Sena strategising in the run-up to the Lok Sabha and assembly elections of 2019? Does the Sena plan to contest polls together with the BJP or solo?
On contesting polls, this is a matter of the party leadership’s decision. But the Sena has always voiced its opinion throughout the last 50 years, whatever we thought was right or wrong. If there is no communication between allies behind closed doors and we learn through media of decisions, we will have to voice it (our opinion) in the media. That is what is happening. What we are saying is not criticism. What we are saying is what we are hearing from people, a sort of feedback mechanism for the government. The Sena was the first to oppose the land acquisition bill and it had be rolled back nationally. After the NDA government came to power in 2014, there was a hike in suburban railway fares and it had to be taken back when we opposed it. On demonetisation and GST, we have suggested corrections. If that is taken as criticism, what can we do? The government has to be open to people’s ‘mann ki baat’. The government should not be as ‘ruling the people’ but ‘serving the people’.
Recently, at an event in Ahmednagar district, you reportedly said the Sena would quit the government in a year. Has the Sena made up its mind?
Party president Uddhav Thackeray and Shiv Sainiks will take a decision on quitting the government. But there is a lot of disillusionment against the government across India. The intent of demonetisation is still dubious, and everyone is questioning that. The implementation of GST was not good. The Gujarat results show that the Congress is on the rise in the model state of the prime minister. Most importantly, many issues, whether it is tackling terrorism, increasing industries and jobs, education reforms, there seems to be a policy paralysis creeping in. So whether there is a difference between the Congress government and the current government is something people will have to figure out. They almost seem the same. What I said in Ahmednagar is that elections can happen any time, but the party cadre has to be ready. The Shiv Sena is ready to take on the government for Maharashtra.
You and party president Uddhav Thackeray recently toured rural Maharashtra. Is the Sena trying to focus more on rural issues such as farmers and the farm loan waiver?
I think every section of society is important for us. Are the students happy? No. The students are unhappy because there is a policy paralysis in education. If you see the farmers, there have been farmer suicides even after the loan waiver was declared. There has been a historic blunder in the implementation of the historical farm loan waiver. If you look at the women, are they happy? We as NDA protested against the LPG rates of about Rs 400 and that has now shot up to Rs 800. We have also asked for details of the farm loan waiver beneficiaries. The government is focusing more on PR activity and advertisements.
Saamana recently heaped praise on Rahul Gandhi. Do you see the Congress in Mumbai as a possible future ally?
What Saamana has said is a matter of fact. It is not a matter of fiction that the Congress has done well. It is the truth. It is also a reflection of the state of politics and governance in the country. The Sena will win majority on its own. Whoever wishes to come with us, in terms of supporting the people’s voice, may join.
Do you see Marathas voting en bloc in 2019 more aggressively than the Patidars did in the Gujarat polls?
I can’t speak for them. But the Sena was the first party to demand a special assembly session for Maratha reservation. We have supported them at various stages. But it is not just them protesting. Every section of society is unhappy. Marathas were promised reservations but we don’t know where that stands. Today, there are protests far and wide across the state and if the government doesn’t do enough to quell this, only advertisements and assurances are not going to help.
In November, Party president Uddhav Thackeray and you met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Any attempts to forge an anti-BJP alliance with like-minded regional parties?
It was a courtesy call with Mamata Banerjee. I don’t think we are against any party. We are working on a common agenda. For example, I don’t understand how come BJP and PDP have come together, for they have spoken different things. If that can happen, any equation can happen in this country. Having said that, there is no way to say that we are aligning with anyone right now. We are here to speak about the nation’s interest.
Your forward looking nightlife proposal has become a reality, with the state government set to implement it from December 19. Will you and the party seize the opportunity and take credit?
I don’t think there is any bickering for credit there. The idea came from a couple of places within India and from cities such as New York and London. Mumbai’s identity is of a safe city. My whole issue was that if London and New York could work 24*7 after major terrorist attacks, what was the fear Mumbai was being fed? We need to trust Mumbaikars more. But for some reason, my proposal for an active nightlife was cleared by the BMC and backed by the home department but I faced criticism from sections in the government calling me “immoral” and “uncultured”. My proposal was never about pubs and bars. Mumbai’s nightlife was restricted to five-star hotels, it will now be open to the common man in non-residential areas. Whoever wants to take credit, I am happy as long as Mumbaikars are trusted more and not called names for eating out at night.
Despite the mess in the online assessment system at Mumbai University, the decision is to continue with it. Why has the government not initiated action against university officials and the firm involved?
I am ashamed to speak on this any more. It’s not just a Yuva Sena versus government issue, for many student organisations have been protesting it. There are several questions on whether an MoU was signed between the government and the firm, why was this firm given such a big contract in May when results were supposed to come at the end of May? I think it is a matter of shame for Mumbai University for botching up. The protesting students are also ashamed. Now dues have been paid and the firm has been given an extension whereas people behind the system should have been jailed for such a big mess. What about the distress and mental harassment that students and parents have gone through? What about financial loss and the loss of a year for students who didn’t get their results on time?
Would you contest in 2019?
That depends on the leadership. Giving tickets is not in my hands.
What or who have had the greatest influence on you in this past year as your role in the Sena grows and evolves?
Not because he is my father, but Uddhav ji is my icon. He has a sense of balance in taking issues to their logical conclusion. I am a voracious reader and am into biographies and autobiographies. I keep reading on different historic personalities and current politicians. A couple of people would be Tony Blair in terms of what the new Labour was — keeping his party’s core at heart. That is very important for each of us new politicians to do. Then, the person who followed that tactic was David Cameron. All these people brought new ideas.