Earlier this month, addressing booth workers, BJP president Amit Shah and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the party must win Baramati. While the constituency has been a bastion of the Pawars, in the 2014 general elections your victory margin had fallen. What is the NCP’s strategy this time?
I am flattered that both Amit Shah and the CM hold my constituency at such an important level. They want their people to win, what’s wrong with it? I will take my work to the people. Yes, seats have been lost due to internal fighting but see the recent zila parishad election results. We have bounced back. My strategy is clear — I take my work to the people. I even inform them when I take a day off.
There are murmurs of some unresolved issues in the constituency…
There are always murmurs. We can’t be flawless. However, what I can take to the people today is my parliamentary performance… Vote for me on merit, vote for me only if you think I have done a good job. Data shows our performance has been good.
There are several challenges in every election and opponents will do their bit. Let the best person win.
Recently, Sharad Pawar had to abruptly stop his speech at an event because of feuding factions in the NCP’s Madha unit. How do you plan to tackle internal fighting?
Factionalism exists in every party. It is unfortunate. In a democracy we need to have debate. In fact, we welcome differences. If everybody agrees with one another it will be a recipe for disaster. However, how you communicate the differences needs to be a little more civilised.
Will the alliance between the Shiv Sena and BJP work? Also, will the Congress and NCP officially announce their tie-up?
If there is a requirement, we will do so. But frankly there is no need. The Congress and NCP have been sending the right signals and there is no need to scream from the rooftops. Some people feel the need to do so. Why do you have to reiterate it? Why call a press conference and make such a big deal about it?
In fact the environment is so hostile that it will work against them (the BJP-Sena). Chowkidaar chor hai is not my dialogue, Uddhav Thackeray said it. (Thackeray had used the Congress’s oft-repeated jibe to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the context of the Rafale deal). This means either his (Thackeray) allegation was wrong and he misled the people, or they are with choron ki toli (group of thieves).
The NCP has had to clarify that Sharad Pawar had not made any statement in defence of PM Modi in the Rafale deal.
That interview was in Marathi and most people have reacted to it without seeing it.
Mr Pawar is a man of few words. He has never defended the Rafale deal. You have to hear the entire sentence in Marathi to understand it.
What is the NCP’s take on Rahul Gandhi as a prime ministerial candidate?
It is the Congress party’s internal issue. In 2004, there was no clear PM face and we had fought a tall leader like Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Congress and NCP have been allies for over a decade. Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Pawar share a relationship of respect. We may have had our differences but at least nobody called the other a chor (thief).
Let’s get this clear. Everyone wants to work together for a common cause. Running a country is not just about the post or has this election become only about Mr Modi becoming the PM again? Why have we moved away from core issues such as unemployment? Farmers’ agitations are being seen across several states.
The Congress does not want to tie up with the MNS but the NCP seems keen. Also, has there been any headway with Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh?
We are open to discussions with like-minded parties. Sometimes division of votes can help. However, if the Congress leadership does not want to ally with the MNS, so be it. It’s all in the discussion stage and a dialogue is important… I am not a part of the negotiation team but what I understand is that we are very keen to have Prakash Ambedkar on board. Ambedkar wants 12 seats. We have offered him four-six. We are waiting to hear from him.