Dr Vijay Kumar Gavit had been a minister in the state for 19 years, both in the Shiv Sena-BJP and the Congress-NCP governments. In an interview with Zeeshan Shaikh, Gavit speaks about his party-hopping, his work for the tribal community and about the possibility of a BJP-NCP alliance.
You have been a minister for two decades. What have you done for your constituency and the district which consistently remains at the bottom of the state’s Human Development Index?
The major thing we did was the creation of Nandurbar district out of a larger Dhule district. Earlier, all the funds meant for tribals used to get diverted. Now, the funds are reaching the tribals. We have also drastically improved the infrastructure in the district where certain areas were virtually unreachable. We have created all-weather roads and promoted horticulture in the district for wealth creation. I agree a lot still needs to be done, but things are a lot better now than what they were earlier.
Why do people say that things have remained unchanged on the ground?
The Congress does not want the development of Adivasis. It wants them to remain poor and subjugated. It believes that the tribal will remain indebted to them only when they are poor and not when their situation improves. I could work properly as a minister for only three years after which all my proposals for tribal development were stalled. There were 67,000 homeless tribal families for whom I had decided to start a housing scheme. Because Pawarsaheb was my leader at that time, I decided to name the scheme as Sharad Gharkul Yojana.
The Congress CM had a problem with the name and the proposal got stalled. We decided to give gas connections to tribals as forests were being cleared. That too was stopped. They were afraid of my growing clout within the tribal community and would not let me work. They finally decided to remove me and put in place a non-tribal as the minister of the department. A lot of work that could not happen was because of the Congress.
How has been your experience of working under the leadership of former CM Prithviraj Chavan?
Of all the CMs that I have seen, he was the most unsuitable for the post. Three years back, we decided to give permissions for starting of a medical college in his constituency as well as mine. To date, the project has not started. He claims to be a person with a clean image. Do you know how many and what types of files have been cleared in the last few days? All these details will now come out after the elections.
What made you leave the NCP? Not many people are happy with your party-hopping.
The political compulsions in my district and the political hegemony being created in the district meant I could no longer live with the status quo. As partners in the ruling alliance, I could not take on Congress. The BJP then decided to offer my daughter a ticket for the Lok Sabha. I never quit the party. It was the NCP which expelled me. I had to go somewhere. When I was the tribal development minister, some of my schemes had greatly impressed Narendra Modi, who was then Gujarat’s CM. He had sent a team of his officials to study my schemes. I liked his style of functioning and decided to join him.
You still seem to have a soft spot for Sharad Pawar. Will you work for an alliance between the BJP and the NCP.
He has been my leader and I respect him. I will be happy if the two parties come together. This is my personal view. The BJP, however, does not need an ally. We will come to power on our own in the state.
Residents of the district claim that the Gavit family is trying to create a fiefdom out of Nandurbar by keeping all power centres within the family.
Please show me one candidate in this elections who can claim they have worked harder for the district than any of us brothers. Moreover, my brothers are individuals and have their own ambitions. People have faith in our work. But I would also like to ask how a party can overlook a good candidate who is hard-working just because he belongs to a particular family.