Do you accept that you divided Opposition votes and gave BJP the advantage?
If you look at the segments which voted for Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), most are Hindus. We targeted the oppressed and suppressed classes, which constitute the OBCs. BJP-Sena also targets them. The larger question is for the Congress. Why did it fail to win the support of sizeable Hindus and Dalits? The entire Hindu vote base, mainly Marathas, which was with Congress-NCP, has shifted to BJP.
Congress was left with only Muslim votes and almost got 80 to 85 per cent of the Muslim votes. But in the absence of Marathas and Dalits, it could not win seats. While Marathas voted en bloc for BJP, Dalit votes were divided. I don’t think it went to BJP.
You are being dismissed as the B-team of BJP.
It was the propaganda of Congress-NCP. We are neither with Congress-NCP nor with BJP-Shiv Sena. Our support base is poor and neglected class across castes, communities and religions.
VBA failed to win seats despite drawing crowds during campaign.
We could not translate the people’s support into seats. The only exception is Imtiaz Jaleel’s (of ally AIMIM) victory in Aurangabad. But we have polled almost 14 per cent votes, which is remarkable. We were fighting multiple fronts — BJP, RSS, Sena, Congress, NCP and also the media.
Do you regret not going with Congress-NCP?
The Congress is lying when it says they offered me six seats. There was no such offer.
How do you describe BJP’s landslide victory?
BJP has succeeded in winning the support of the new aspirational middle class.
What are your plans for Assembly elections?
The Lok Sabha elections were to create a pitch for the Assembly polls. We are eyeing 55 seats. We will soon decide on the number of seats we would like to contest.
How will Lok Sabha polls impact the state elections?
BJP’s success in the Lok Sabha elections will not necessarily result in a cakewalk in the state polls. We have seen in the past, the Rajiv Gandhi government managed a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha but the Congress struggled to retain its majority in the state polls. So, Assembly polls are going to be a challenge for the BJP.
How will politics change with BJP’s victory and a weak Opposition at Centre?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will become more dictatorial. He will run it like a presidential government… They will push the Hindutva agenda vigorously. The Ram temple and abrogation of Article 370 will be back on the priority list. I don’t rule out their agenda of doing away with the Constitution. A weak Opposition is a cause of concern for democracy.