On a statewide ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’ ahead of the Assembly elections, Shiv Sena leader and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray tells The Indian Express that according to an agreement between the top leaders of the party and the BJP, there would be a Sena Chief Minister in Maharashtra after the state Assembly polls. Aaditya said he would contest the upcoming polls if the people and the party wanted, while indicating he could be Sena’s face for the top post. Excerpts:
Shiv Sena leaders have been projecting you as next chief ministerial candidate. Do you want to be the next CM of Maharashtra?
This is the wish of course, but it is also a question of first what we are aiming to do right now. This yatra is not about elections. It isn’t about who will become what. It is about seeking the blessings of the people. More than seeking the blessings, I am also out to hear what they (the people) have to say. Because, most of us, as political parties, keep telling them what we feel, but never listen to them. So, I think this is the time to listen to them.
You have been in politics for more than nine years. In the last couple of months, Yuva and Shiv Sainiks have been urging you to contest the Assembly polls. Will you contest in the upcoming elections?
It’s not something I am completely averse to. I like the workings of the state Assembly or the Lok Sabha. So, that’s not an issue. The thing is I am here to listen to the people. And if the people believe so, the cadre believes so, the party believes so, I would be ready to do so.
Recently, there was talk that some Assembly segments in Mumbai were being assessed for you. Are you looking at any particular assembly segment?
Wherever the party feels that I should be representing, on whichever seat. But finally I would be representing the state and aspirations of the youth. So, it totally depends on the party on what seat I will get, if at all I am contesting.
Following the alliance, it is being said that the Sena-BJP will fight the Assembly polls on equal number of seats and power sharing. But many BJP leaders are claiming that the state will have a BJP chief minister. Will there be equal seat-sharing with the BJP? Will Sena also have chief minister for two-and-half years?
Of course, the Sena will have a chief minister. And it has been decided between BJP president Amit Shah ji and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray ji. I was only the fourth person in the room, apart from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. People who don’t know about this agreement and people who are believing in personal interests, are speaking about many other things. But anyone who believes in the best interest of the country, Maharashtra and both the parties, they know what the alliance is and what the agreement is. I don’t think I need to reiterate that because CM (Fadnavis) has said that in open press conference about equality in seats and in power sharing.
How many seats will the Shiv Sena win in the Assembly polls? Will that be more than the BJP?
I think we will go past the expectations of everyone and rise up to what the seats require us to be. What is important is that there is a wave in favour of the Sena and a saffron wave across Maharas-htra. People have faith in the Sena, they have seen the Sena, be it in the government or in the Opposition. We have always (given) voice (to) the people, stood with them. Our face has never changed. We have not denied seeing the truth even as treasury bench or as Opposition. So, the fact is that we are looking at practical approach towards governance and solutions, rather than any ideologies. Be it farmers’ crisis, women’s issues, industries, or land acquisition without the will of the people, the Sena has always stood by the people. The people expect us to form the next government. I am sure we will win maximum seats.
There are talks that Sena has to win more number of seats…
It is irrespective. The seat-sharing and power-sharing patterns are irrespective (of number of seats) as declared by CM (Fadnavis) in the press conference. Irrespective of how many seats, whichever party wins…
…to have a Sena CM?
See, the point is right now as Shiv Sainiks we are now focussing on expanding the party, not just in Maharashtra but across the country, because our ideology and our leadership is being widely accepted. The fact is that we are trying to solve the problems rather than create any issues.
What prompted you to start the Jan Ashirwad Yatra? What is your idea behind it? Why did you choose Jalgaon to start the statewide tour?
You have to start somewhere in Maharashtra. This is called Uttar Maharashtra (North Maharshtra). If you place the words in different way, Maharashtrala Uttar. All the problems of the state have the answers in the word ‘Uttar’ (answer). Besides, it is one of our bastions. We have a lot of our activists here. This yatra is primarily to thank all those people who stood with us, and to win over those people who did not vote for us. They didn’t vote for us as they have not seen our work or seen the love and support the Sena, as the party, gives to anyone.
You spoke about “new” and “enriching” Maharashtra. What do you mean by that exactly?
I spoke about drought-free Maharashtra, pollution-free Maharashtra, unemployment-free Maharashtra. A Maharashtra that is moving ahead with times is about the aspirations of the youth, who have different dreams and different speed to try to acquire it or to reach goals. It’s about changing the basic issues of Maharashtra. This is what I think. This will be again about what the people think, whatever delegations and requests I get for our manifesto.
In the political circles, you are being referred to as an urban or Mumbai-centric leader of Sena. Are you attempting to remove this tag through this statewide tour and establishing yourself as state-level acceptable face?
I think that is only said by people who don’t tour with me. Since 2012, I have been touring the state from Palghar, Jawhar, Mokhada, Melghat to Marathwada, Vidarbha and Western Maharahstra. Apart from this I’m trying to solve the problems everywhere. So, only those people who haven’t toured as much with me, think about me as a Mumbai-centric leader. But, thankfully every person in every different location feels that I belong to them.
The Nanar oil refinery is being shifted to Raigad. Is that okay? Would it not have been a means to generate employment in Ratnagiri? And if Shiv Sena wants the chief ministership, is it okay to say no to the refinery in Ratnagiri, and give it a go ahead in Raigad if the main objection is on the grounds of environment degradation?
Honestly, there is no talk of the refinery now. The industries minister has said everything will be done after a dialogue with the local people. Our opposition wasn’t to the refinery, but to the location only because the local people didn’t want it there, and we stand with the local people. About generation of employment, of course it has to come into Maharashtra. So, we are not opposed to the refinery. Wherever it is wanted, we will be more than happy to welcome it (the refinery) into Maharashtra.