Former Home Minister and veteran Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde, who has won from Solapur seat thrice in 20 years and lost once, is coming out of self-imposed political retirement to again contest from Solapur city seat. On Wednesday, the Congress announced his name from Solapur seat. In an interview with The Indian Express, Shinde said he was confident of winning the seat for the fourth time and would remain in politics as long as he remains fit. Shinde had lost to Sharad Bansode of BJP in the 2014 elections.
You are back in the poll ring. At 77, how confident are you of overcoming the challenges being put up by the BJP?
I am happy that the party has reposed faith in me once again. The people of Solapur have given me a chance to represent them in Parliament thrice. I am fully confident that they will choose their “right sevak” this time too.
People in Solapur grumble that their people’s representative was not available for them when they needed him. Your comment.
I don’t know about him, but last five years, I have been with the people of Solapur. Whenever they needed me, I was among them. I was interacting, understanding their problems and tried to get their grievances resolved.
Your close friend NCP chief Sharad Pawar first decided to contest from Madha seat and then has decided to opt out. Do you think he should have contested the elections like you have done?
I don’t know… It is a personal decision. Both his decisions are his own, so I think it will not be appropriate to comment about my friend’s decision. Click here for more election news
Prakash Ambedkar and his Bahujan Vanchit Aghadi has decided to not join the maha-alliance led by the Congress. It is being considered as a major blow to secular forces. Your comment.
Prakash Ambedkar is the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of our Constitution. Dr Ambedkar’s secular ideologies are very well. I am sure Prakash Ambedkar will keep this in view and do everything possible to strengthen secular forces. As far as I know, discussions at the highest level are underway. I am confident he will not leave the maha-alliance and some arrangement will be worked out.
Top Congress leaders in Maharashtra apparently do not see eye to eye on various issues. There seem to be some face-off underway among Congress leaders.
I don’t think there is any problem or any quarrel in the Congress. Today, I was at a Congress meeting and all leaders were present there.
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the Congress was struggling to find good candidates in Maharashtra. Do you share this view?
We are not struggling, but we are flooded with applications. But we are looking at the elective merits of the candidates. We have to consider all the aspects before picking the right candidate.
Last time, Congress won only two seats in Maharashtra. How will the party fare this time?
The atmosphere is congenial for the party to do far better than the last time. I feel at least 85 per cent of our candidates will win this time. We will all make efforts towards that end.
After the last elections, you had announced your retirement from politics. How long will you stay in politics?
I will be in the service of the people as long as I can. I will serve the people of Solapur, the people across the country and my party till I remain fit.