This is a 25-year-old alliance and the strongest in the country. Unfortunately, before the last Maharashtra election the alliance was terminated. Since one party could not get a majority, the Sena became a part of the government in the interest of the state. For the last about four-and-a-half years, the Sena, while being a part of the government, also played the role of the Opposition because there weren’t any opposition parties left in Maharashtra.
But when the country was in trouble, and its borders were tense, (party chief) Uddhav saheb decided that national interest is above everything… That is why a decision to forge the alliance was taken.
This is a new chapter in the journey of the alliance. This time, Uddhav saheb went to Gandhinagar when Amit Shah ji filed his election nomination form. This had never happened before in the alliance’s history.
Every time we contested (Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra), it was 22 seats for Sena and 26 for the BJP, but this time the Sena has been given one extra seat in Palghar. This is in the need of the country and state. This alliance will be unbreakable even in the future.
You were a Union cabinet minister while the relationship between the Sena and BJP was tense in the state. Was it difficult to balance your responsibilities as a Union minister and a senior leader of the party?
I had to do some heavy lifting while playing both the roles. But there was no bitterness – neither in the government, nor in the party. The fruit of all the kasrat (work) I did, was the alliance.
Every time something happened, the media would ask me before entering the Lok Sabha when I was going to resign. have completed my five years listening to this. Now, I won’t have to face this question any more because the alliance is now unbreakable.
You were also the only Sena minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet. Was it lonely?
I never felt lonely. Everyone made me comfortable. But to tell you the truth, my colleagues in the Cabinet had just one wish. “Geete sahab, kuch bhi kariye, gathbandhan mat todiye. Aap hamesha sarkar mein rehna chahiye. Jis din aap sarkar se jaoge, nuksaan keval aapka nahi, hamara bhi hai, poore desh ka hai (Do anything but don’t break the alliance. You must remain a part of the government. The day you quit the government, the loss will be ours, the entire nation’s and not just your alone)”.
You are confident of another win and a Cabinet berth. Do you think there should be at least one more Sena minister in the Union Cabinet?
This time the friendship is so strong that not just one, there will be four-five ministers from the Sena… Last time the alliance won 42 of the 48 seats in Maharashtra, but this time it appears that we will win all 48. We may perhaps lose one seat, but I won’t be alone in the Cabinet.
Last time you defeated Sunil Tatkare (NCP) with a margin of 2,100 votes. But this time he seems more confident with the support of the Peasants and Workers Party.
Theirs (Congress-NCP) is an alliance of leaders, not of the cadre or parties. Party workers and voters are not with them. They don’t subscribe to this arrangement. A simple example is that the Congress taluka head in Shrivardhan has resolved that in no circumstances will they vote for Tatkare. They will vote for Anant Geete… The middle-rung leaders of the PWP and office bearers, party workers are all with me.
Your opponents have blamed you for failing to bring any major industrial set up to Konkan despite helming the heavy industries portfolio at the Centre. How would you respond?
Ministers are bound by the resolves made by the government. Our government had resolved not to set up its own industries as the private sector had accelerated its growth in the sector. MNCs had also entered the game… There was no industrial set up not just in Konkan, but elsewhere in the country too. No public enterprise has set up its business. Because of this resolve, I could not bring any businesses here.
In the next five years is this expected to change if it is still the NDA at the Centre?
Definitely. The government may change its resolve in the future. We will definitely bring more private enterprise here. The infrastructure needed for industry is not adequate here that is why businesses hesitate to come here. Even if we have ports, but other facilities are not available. Hence, industry is not attracted to this region.
What kind of industries can this bring to Konkan and will they create jobs?
Auto sector is the most important in the heavy industries portfolio. In the past five years, leading automobile companies have set up industries in India. But due to inadequate supporting infrastructure, I could not attract them to Konkan. In Maharashtra, the industries are in Chakan, Pune. I will try my best to bring in auto sector to Konkan.