In an interview with The Indian Express, Shiv Sena leader and MP from Mumbai South Central seat Rahul Shewale says there is a lot of unrest among the Dalit community over to 2018 Bhima-Koregaon violence which, he says, will certainly have an impact on the poll results. Excerpts from the interview:
What are the major development works carried out in the last five years in your constituency?
I have raised and followed-up the issues of Amebedkar Memorial at Indu Mills, beautification of Dadar Chowpatty, redevelopment of BDD chawls at Wadala, Dharavi redevelopment, Metro connectivity across the constituency, along with other civic matters. Most of these issues have been fast-tracked and will be completed within stipulated time.
What are the issues that you will take to the people while campaigning?
The focus will be on following up all these issues and implementing the city’s development plan. I will raise the issue with the Union government to get a special financial package for implementation of the development plan and give special powers to the civic body for land acquisition in the city so that it can acquire land from both the state and central authorities.
Union minister and RPI(A) chief Ramdas Athawale had expressed his desire to contest on Mumbai South-Central seat. Do you feel that Athawale and his supporters will help you in the polls?
Athawale wanted to contest on a seat in the Lok Sabha elections as it would have helped the RPI(A) in obtaining recognition and other facilities from the Election Commission of India. His desire was to contest in the polls, not against me. When the party announced my candidature, he extended support to me saying that he will campaign for me and other candidates of the BJP-Sena alliance. He has also met the Chief Minister, who has promised to give justice to him and his party.
The Dharavi redevelopment is always discussed ahead of the polls, but so far has failed to take off. Why?
The redevelopment of the Dharavi was delayed due to the wrong policies of the previous Congress-NCP government. A financier is required for the redevelopment of Dharavi first and then renowned companies can be appointed to develop it. The redevelopment plan will require Rs 25,000 crore. So, after floating global tenders, an international company is ready to finance the project and the redevelopment plan is now in the right direction.
There seems to be not much progress in the construction of the Ambedkar Memorial at Indu Mills. Your comments.
The work on the memorial is going on a war-footing. I have raised the issue in parliament several times. All the issues have been resolved and the work will be completed on time in 2020.
Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi has also fielded a candidate against you. Will it cut into your vote share?
There has been a lot of unrest among the Dalit community after the Bhima-Koregaon violence, which will reflect in the polls. Since the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) is also with them, it will certainly have an impact and benefit the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi in the Lok Sabha polls. Though it will also have impact in my constituency, it will not have an impact on my voters. Rather it will eat into the Congress’s vote share.
Athawale (a Dalit leader), who has a significant presence in my constituency, is with me and that will benefit me.
Congress has fielded former MP and prominent Dalit leader Eknath Gaikwad from the seat. With no Modi wave, how do you see him as an opposition candidate?
Though there was a Modi wave during 2014 Lok Sabha elections, my candidature was announced 10 months prior to the polls and the atmosphere was in my favour.
I was newcomer last time, but I am in a stronger position now. The development works undertaken by me over the last five years, issues raised in parliament and the performance of the Union and state governments and civic body, will all work in my favour.
The MNS has decided to work against the BJP in this election. Will it impact Sena’s performance?
It will not have any impact on us. The MNS voters are originally Shiv Sena voters. The past experience shows that if there is no MNS candidate, then the MNS voters go for the Shiv Sena candidate. So, they will vote for us this time.