Harshvardhan Patil, Maharashtra’s Cooperatives and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, heads the Congress media and publicity campaign for the polls. He spoke to Sandeep Ashar.
During the Lok Sabha campaign, the BJP upstaged the Congress. What sort of campaign do you plan this time?
We have designed an exhaustive campaign through all mediums including print, electronic and social media, cinema halls, and outdoor campaign. Professional agencies have been hired. The campaign will focus on development work carried out by the government in youth and women empowerment, infrastructure development, agriculture, healthcare, farmers’ welfare, social justice.
The Congress-NCP government has faced allegations of corruption and misrule. Why should people reelect it?
We’ve a proven development track record… I’m confident that we will come back to power. We will have a Congress chief minister.
A Congress chief minister even if the alliance with the NCP continues?
We are the bigger party in the alliance. I have no doubt we will be the single largest party after the polls.
What has changed in the three months since the Lok Sabha polls, when the party was nearly wiped out?
The recent bypoll results in various states are a clear indication that the Lok Sabha outcome cannot be the basis to judge a state poll. The two elections are very different. While Narendra Modi’s impact itself is on the wane following his government’s failure to deliver on promises dished out during the campaign, the opposition in the state is struggling to project a leader under whom elections will be fought. I dare the opposition to declare its leader. We are contesting this election under Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s leadership; the opposition has no credible face.
But the Congress has not projected a chief ministerial candidate either; you have multiple aspirants.
We are contesting under the chief minister’s leadership. He is our leader. The beauty of the Congress is that all of us know our Laxman rekha and never go beyond it. All of us are working under one umbrella. Among those lining up for the top post in the opposition, none has the administrative experience to run a government.
The BJP has alleged that corruption to the tune of Rs 11.78 lakh crore took place during the 15-year reign of the Congress-NCP. Your CM himself has expressed concerns regarding irregularities in irrigation [held by NCP] in the past.
The allegation about Rs 11.78 lakh crore does not hold as the government spend itself during these years was not that much. About the irrigation sector, it is important that one differentiates between irregularities and corruption. The government brought out a probe report and has taken corrective measures. .
The BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis has backed the “separate Vidarbha” demand. Some Congress leaders from Vidarbha too, such as Nitin Raut, have supported the demand. What is the Congress’s stand?
The Congress does not support “separate Vidarbha development”. We believe in development of all parts in a unified Maharashtra. Some sections are projecting Fadnavis as a chief ministerial candidate. How can a person who speaks of dividing the state in two be considered for the top post?
Would you concede that bickering among Congress and NCP ministers has hurt perceptions about the government?
Look, in a coalition, such things do occur. Both political parties want to expand their base in the state.