Shiv Sena scion Aditya Thackeray says no Sena leader has built a business empire for himself, that the party brings results wherever it has been elected. In an interview, he talks about his own ambitions, ideas and inspirations.
What’s your report card on where the Shiv Sena has scored and where it has lost in the two decades that it has controlled the country’s richest municipality?
We started off with basic grievances redressal. When we make roads, the primary focus is to make them paver-block free, to make them pothole-free. And to make it longer lasting than what was made 40 years ago, some with concrete and asphalt mastic. But, along with improving the roads, we are now ducting 41 utilities, highest in the country, under the roads. Mapping them digitally with a software so that we don’t need to dig them up randomly. Along with that, we have to coordinate with the traffic police so that traffic isn’t blocked.
Last year, Maharashtra was hit by the worst drought in 69 years. Still, Mumbai did not feel the brunt of the drought. It was only because of the system that we built with a water supply chain. Delhi, Chennai, Ahemadabad and Gurgaon, which is the millennium city of India, were flooded for three days during the monsoon. Despite record rainfall, Mumbai did not flood as it used to ten years ago. This is only because of the five pumping stations we have made. In education, we have connected 480 schools of the BMC with virtual classrooms. Similarly, 18,000 school students have tabs today that have reduced the burden of their schoolbags.
On where we fell short, we need more coordination with the state government. Today, Mumbai needs an empowered mayor or empowered municipal council. A lot of roads and bridges come under 16 different agencies where haphazard work is carried out without coordinating with the BMC for amenities and utilities. We want all these agencies, which are not elected, to coordinate with the BMC which is an elected body. It will help in resolving many issues.
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Last year, you led a KG-to-PG morcha to highlight the mess in education sector in the state. As leader of the Yuva Sena, what are your ideas to revamp education in Mumbai and Maharashtra?
There are two levels — the way we are teaching and what we are teaching. Of course, syllabus reform is needed and I have been pursuing it for the last couple of years. After the government changed, I thought something would progress but unfortunately nothing has happened yet. In March 2015, I met the education minister with requests on making our syllabus modern, more career-oriented and more practical. What we are learning today is what we used to learn 30 years ago. Secondly, I asked the ministry for a grievance redressal system through e-mails, letters, open meetings with students, teachers and principals. Another important thing is the use of technology. Virtual classrooms and tabs have improved students’ grades. The lack of will to do things is the hurdle on part of the government.
With reforms stalled, do you think the government is involved in a war for taking credit for initiatives?
Yes, it is. The credit war has become so cheap that today it has become a Twitter government. They tweet out things, saying we are with this company and so many jobs have been created. After three years, there are no jobs created. On many hoardings, the government is taking credit for a Metro that was built by the Congress government. The coastal road was first proposed by us in 2011, but the current government is trying to take credit for it. The BJP is getting very childish in seeking credit but it is best to ignore this and continue working.
You have been following up on the very forward-looking night-life proposal since the BMC passed it in 2013. Your initiative for pedestrian-friendly streets, fitness etc are also progressive. But the Sena cadre still engages in its old-fashioned style of politics, blackening people’s faces or holding gheraos. How do you reconcile the two approaches?
Both are approved in a democracy. Wherever there is injustice, there will be protests and gheraos. Wherever the Sena has protested, it has yielded results.
With your active involvement in political affairs now, would you be interested in contesting assembly polls?
I have never kept myself away from that. If at all there is a need for me to do so, why not? Because the work that you can do from inside the Legislative Assembly is tremendous. So, why not? When my grandfather took a decision to never contest polls, I think he believed in a certain way. He never imposed (his beliefs) on any of us.
You have also been speaking about 100 per cent politics while Bal Thackeray was for 80 per cent social work. Isn’t this a fundamental shift in the Sena?
In past six years into Sena, I have realised the trajectory of the Sena. Whenever the Sena is voted to power, the elected people have taken the city or state to another level. For example, 55 flyovers in the city, the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, initiation of a sea link, tiger safari at the national park and other projects were taken during 1995-1999. No Sena leader has created a business empire for himself as leaders from other parties have. Sena has created wealth for the people. That’s why I say Sena’s hundred per cent politics means hundred per cent social work for people.
As a young leader, do you feel political parties in India have given us enough youth icons? Who among the current lot of young leaders in the country do you feel inspired by?
We are a country with a larger, increasing young generation with new ideas in business, politics and sport. But, for me, there are two role models — my grandfather and father. Both of them have different ways of working. And I try to work by the ways both have taught me.
Today is Valentine’s Day. Would you like to tell voters whether the Sena’s opposition to such celebrations is a thing of the past?
It has been a non-issue for us for the past ten years, why discuss it now?