The Congress-NCP alliance will focus on the “non-performance” of the state government and its many “unkept promises” during the campaign, according to state Congress president Balasaheb Thorat. In a chat with Manoj More, Thorat claimed the opposition alliance will win 160 seats in the Assembly election.
Why do you say that the BJP government has failed to do justice to the people of Maharashtra in the last five years?
In the last five years, they (BJP-Shiv Sena government) only made tall claims, spread lies and did nothing. They made promises which remain on paper. For example, today, I addressed two rallies in Sangli district and came face to face with the grim reality. People who have been hit by floods have received no assistance from the government. Neither assistance nor rehabilitation has been done. The state government said it has sought Rs 6,800 crore from the Centre. The government has received not a single paisa. Despite having BJP governments at the Centre and state, people are made to suffer. Fadnavis only knows how to speak lies… the chief minister should answer our question: has the government forgotten the flood-hit people of Sangli and Kolhapur?
You have also been critical of the way the government has dealt with Pune city.
The government promised to implement the Smart City project. It promised Rs 100 crore for the city, but made no budgetary provision for the project. And look at the state of Pune city. Even if it rains for a short while, there is waterlogging across the entire city. Constructions have been allowed blatantly on nullahs and their course has been diverted. The traffic situation in Pune is only getting worse by the day. People from Sangamner and Nashik avoid coming to Pune if they want to go to Kolhapur. In the evening hours, the traffic situation is completely chaotic. And despite having copious rain, they are not even able to provide adequate drinking water to the people of the city. This is the state of a Smart City under the BJP-Sena government.
If the government, according to you, has done nothing, why has the Congress-NCP combine not raised the issue aggressively?
We have raised it inside and outside the state legislature. Now, during our campaign, we are taking the non-performance of the government to the people. The main thrust of our campaign will be on how the government has taken people for a ride and made promises which it has failed to keep.
One of the promises that you spoke of was the reservation to Dhangars. Can you elaborate on this?
In 2014, the BJP promised reservation to the Dhangar community. Five years later, the Dhangar community is still fighting for this cause. It is only the Congress-NCP which is capable of ensuring justice to communities like the Dhangars.
We did it for OBCs when we were in power. RSP chief Mahadev Jankar is also unhappy with the BJP, but it is surprising that he says he will campaign for the BJP-Sena candidate. Jankar should reveal to the people whether he is really serious about the Dhangar community.
At a press conference, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the Congress-NCP had brought forward three major corruption cases against the Fadnavis government, besides a clutch of others. He claimed that the government refused to even investigate these cases. Will you be raising these issues during the campaign?
Of course, we will highlight how the government is trying to cover up its wrongdoing and is busy raking up mud against Congress leaders. This double standard of the government will be placed before the voters. We will not give up this issue till we carry it to its logical conclusion.
There are reports that Rahul Gandhi will be on foreign tour during Maharashtra elections. Will he make himself available for the campaign?
He is on tour for some personal reasons. But Rahulji will certainly be available for campaigning on his return. We will have a slew of senior leaders who will be campaigning throughout the state.
Rebels have been a major headache for the Congress. What is the update on them?
A majority of the rebels have withdrawn from the race. But some of them are still in the race. And our efforts are underway to make them withdraw and extend support to our alliance candidates.
The BJP-Sena has been claiming that they will win 220 seats…
Let them say what they want to. Voters will give them a befitting reply. The Congress and NCP’s seat tally will double in this election. Both parties together will get 160 seats. As for the issue of chief minister, party legislators will decide on that.
What’s your take on former CM Sushilkumar Shinde’s contention that the Congress and NCP will merge in the future?
It is his personal view. Currently, both parties are fighting the election unitedly.
Do you plan to raise the abrogation of Article 370 during the campaign?
This is a state election and there are numerous problems, such as basic infrastructure missing in cities, farmer suicides, industrial slowdown and growing unemployment. We will highlight these issues.
Is MNS part of the alliance?
To defeat BJP and Sena candidates, we are making some adjustments, which includes supporting a couple of MNS candidates.