The Shiv Sena and the BJP ironed out their creases after state Minister Arjun Khotkar withdrew his demand to be allowed to contest the Lok Sabha election from Jalna, the bastion of state BJP president Raosaheb Patil Danve. With that, Danve, the four-time MP from Jalna, said that the two allies have come to an agreement over seat-sharing. Danve tells The Indian Express why he feels the ‘Modi-wave’ is greater than it was in 2014.
Shiv Sena has been a harsh critic of BJP, its leaders and the Prime Minister. How is the alliance going to move forward?
Our alliance is 25 years old. Except for one Assembly election, we have contested all Lok Sabha and Assembly elections together. The math changed after that alliance split. BJP won more seats than the Sena. They naturally thought that to expand their party, they must tour the state and catch the pulse of the people. In four years, whatever schemes they thought of, like farm loan waivers and farmers’ insurance, they fought with us at the party level. But there was no struggle within the government. Cabinet meetings or government decisions were never opposed. At the end of the day, we are two different parties. Each has to expand. What has happened is in the past. We share the same ideology. We have struggled against Congress and NCP for the last 50 years. When we compare that and the struggle of the last five years, which one is better? Since we were on the same page ideologically, we had to unite politically.
Since the time of the formation of their parties, people who splintered like Chandrababu Naidu, Mamata Banerjee, who left the Congress, and Akhilesh Yadav, are coming together to defeat us. We, being like-minded parties, must come together.
BJP and Shiv Sena leaders have decided to forge an alliance but how has this decision been received by the party cadre that was preparing to contest on all 48 seats?
More than the leaders, the party workers wanted an alliance. We were, in fact, pressured by them. And as expected, the alliance was forged. Some minds were divided about this, they had to be placated. Hence, Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister and I started tours of the divisions. So far, we have toured Amravati, Nagpur, Nashik and Aurangabad. Then it was to be Pune and Navi Mumbai… all six divisions would have been completed but since (Manohar) Parrikar passed away, we were in mourning. It was their wish that an alliance should be formed, so the party workers are not disappointed.
Will there be a joint election manifesto?
BJP is a national party and the Sena is a regional party. Their manifesto cannot be one but at the state level, there are some issues that we have in common, like farmers’ issues, education and industrial policy. There were some issues over which we have had our differences and there will be some in the new manifesto that we agreed on.
With the Nanar oil refinery project denotified, the BJP has acceded to Sena’s demand. Is this an indication of Sena’s upper hand?
When two, three or four parties come together, some things have to be adjusted. In a coalition government, you have to listen to everyone. They had opposed Nanar right from the beginning and we took one of their issues into account. We decided to make apartments of 500 sq ft and less in Mumbai property tax-free and waived farm loan… until it reaches the last farmer, we will keep it going.
With BJP giving in to Sena’s demands, is it still the big brother in the alliance?
If we conceded two of their demands, how does the equation change? We had differences over some issues and no differences over others. The issues we agreed upon have already been resolved. Election results will decide who is the bigger brother of the two. The numbers will decide. When the results come will be determined who is bigger or smaller.
Will this be a battle of ideologies or issues?
You have to unite based on ideology and resolve issues. They cannot be isolated. You cannot contest election on ideology and ignore issues. Or you cannot just form an alliance with just about anybody to fight issues. We cannot tie up with Communist (parties) or Congress. Like-minded people must come together and resolve issues.
Have Shiv Sena and BJP arrived at a consensus over seat sharing?
There is no problem over any seats and we have arrived at an arrangement. There are some changes in some seats but they cannot be disclosed now.
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What is the difference in your strategy this election as compared to 2014?
Earlier, we didn’t focus much on the organisation. This time, in the 48 constituencies, we have deployed 25 workers per polling booth. The 25 workers report to one, who is in-charge of five booths.
Is the ‘Modi wave’ still there?
It is, in fact, bigger than it was in 2014. People are happy with the government’s work and they feel that the country is safe only in the hands of Modi. BJP was accused of politicising the Balakot attacks in February.
Before the Balakot attacks, we were accused of doing nothing even after 40 of our (CRPF) personnel were killed. Then, there was an all-party meeting, everybody consented and then there was an attack. What is the need to make any allegations now? If we killed their terrorists, we did. Everyone should support that. Why should anyone oppose? I feel these allegations are politically motivated. They ask us for proof? If bombs were dropped from air, they aren’t going to sever heads. How is anyone going to count? The proof that can be given has already been given.
Will BJP make political gains because of the attacks?
The attacks have ignited a patriotic feeling among people. That will surely benefit us.
If voted back into power, what is the BJP-Sena alliance aiming at changing?
The state needs an increase in its irrigation capacity, greater industrialisation and investments as well as addressing unemployment. The work of national highways, airports in Mumbai and Pune, Nagpur Metro, Pune Metro, Mumbai Metro and Coastal Road — these projects will have to be completed.
Is this going to be a tough election against Congress-NCP?
Not at all. It will be tough for Congress-NCP. They are finding no candidates. They have found no one to field against me. For all we know, they might put out an advertisement or go door-to-door asking if anyone wants to contest against Raosaheb Danve. This is the same in many constituencies.
What are your views of the alliances forged by Opposition parties?
Hi majboor lokanchi yuti ahe, majboot lokanchi nahi (This is an alliance of the helpless, not of the strong). These are not like-minded people. If they are asked to pick a PM candidate, their alliance will terminate right away.
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