In an interview to newspapers on his government’s achievements, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who completes one year in office on Saturday, spoke about his plan to tackle the financial stress on the state economy, on the BJP’s “vendetta” politics and on contesting BMC and other municipal corporation polls together with allies NCP and Congress. Edited excerpts:
Since the formation of the MVA government, the opposition has been giving dates for its collapse? How difficult has running this government been for you?
Let them do that. They are busy and happy doing that. I do not want to come in between anybody’s happiness. This pandemic period in which we are running this government is an exceptional time. No previous government would have to face the pressures and difficulties that we have. The challenges before this government are before you. However, we have set some goals for ourselves and I promise you that we will complete them in the next four years.
Has the Centre been receptive towards working with your government on issues affecting the state?
Even though the party or ideology of government is important, after the formation of the government it’s the duty of the government either at the Centre or at the state to work impartially without any discrimination. From September, the Centre stopped the supply of PPE kits and N95 masks. It led to an increase in the state’s financial burden by around Rs 250-300 crore. Also, the GST and tax devolution dues of around Rs 38,000 crore are still pending with the Centre. Apart from nominal help, we have not received the required cooperation from the Centre when natural calamities such as Nisarga cyclone, floods in Vidarbha and incessant rainfall in Western Maharashtra and Marathwada hit the state. In some of the cases, the central teams have not come to assess the damages despite our requests. If the central teams have not come to visit yet, then how are we to get assistance.
What is your stand on the GST issue?
My belief is that if there are any lacunas in the GST, it should be fixed quickly to make it a foolproof system. If it is not possible to do so, then the old tax regime should be brought back.
You have been pretty vocal in attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi with whom you have shared cordial relations.
Making personal attacks or speaking with malicious intention is something that I have always refrained from. I, however, work and speak on issues that affect the well-being of my state with passion. Unlike them, I have never made personal attacks the way they have attacked my family with vengeance. When we were with them, we were good to them, we used to campaign for them without which their ballot boxes would never have filled up. Today, the manner in which they are attacking our family is a low and perverted tendency of their politics. I have not stooped to their level and attacked them. Whatever I say is for the good of my people and will continue to do so.
Within months of you taking over, the state was faced with the pandemic crisis. How does the government plan to rescue the economy in the coming year?
We will officially complete one year tomorrow (Saturday). We had to restrict a lot of our work, including curtail our budget session, as the coronavirus had started spreading its tentacles. However, in spite of that, during the lockdown, the Maharashtra government had signed memorandum of understanding (MoUs) for investments worth Rs 50,000 crore. Of the MoUs signed in June, preliminary work on 60-70 per cent in terms of granting permissions, allotting land has been done. The remaining work will also be done in the coming days. We have decided to bring in investment worth Rs 1 lakh crore in one year. It is important to note that though the wheels of economic activities slowed down, we did not allow it to stop. We will see its fruits in the coming months and years.
What according to you are the major achievements of your government so far?
Our government started with approving Rs 20 crore funds for the development of Raigad fort. Then, the big decision of farm loan waiver up to Rs 2 lakh was taken and it was implemented without any hurdles. We also introduced Shiv Bhojan at Rs 10 (per plate) that is now being given at Rs 5. Whatever promises we made for farmers, we have nearly fulfilled all of them. Farm loan waiver was a big decision. We don’t make announcements of doubling and tripling income of farmers or ‘acche din aayenge’. We have recently launched an initiative “vikel te pikel” through which we will help connect farmers to value chains and will help farmers grow crops based on demand of end consumers. All these will start showing its impact and help farmers in a big way.
You moved the Metro car depot from Aarey to Kanjurmarg. Will this not lead to cost escalation due to delay in completion of the project? Secondly, a private developer has claimed rights on the land…
These are old issues. Some people claim that they are evaluating or studying proposals but their study never ends. There are some who get a grasp of things and situations quickly and are prompt in taking decisions. That is what we have done. People will not regret whatever decision we have taken. They (opposition) may regret it but not the people. I will give a detailed presentation on what we have done. Moving the car shed to Kanjur could have been done earlier also. But unnecessarily committees were appointed and reports were made. We don’t want to carry out development by destroying life in Aarey. We are taking the depot to Kanjur and it will be beneficial for more people.
The Governor has still not cleared the 12 names the government has sent. Is there another tussle between the government and Raj Bhavan?
We had requested him to take a decision in 15 days. The keenness and speed with which the Governor wanted temples reopened, we hope he will show the same speed in taking decisions on matters related to survival of democracy as well.
Why is the government taking time in providing relief to people who have received high power bills during the lockdown?
The outstanding bill recoveries of power companies in the state is now close to Rs 60,000 crore. Our dues from the Centre are not being cleared and neither are we getting much help from them. We are facing a financial crisis.
Will MVA contest BMC and other municipal corporation polls in an alliance?
Definitely, we will contest together. At present, the legislative council polls next month are being contested in an alliance only.
Your father had claimed that he used to run the government through remote control. How has been your experience running a coalition government with two parties?
Running government through remote control is a separate thing but at this time there are three fingers on the remote.
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