Shiv Sena spokesperson Dr Neelam Gorhe has been appointed the coordinator of six Lok Sabha constituencies: Pune, Shirur, Maval, Baramati, Solapur and Madha. The senior leader will be working with BJP MLA Girish Bapat to ensure the smooth functioning of the saffron alliance. Gorhe, who has been active in politics for over 16 years, spoke to The Indian Express about her role and how the party is gearing up to connect with voters
What will be your role in the days to come as a coordinator? How will you handle the seats entrusted to you?
The party has entrusted the responsibility of six seats in western Maharashtra to me. My role will be to ensure coordination between our alliance partner and to bridge the gap, if any, between workers of the two parties. In consultation with our alliance partner, we will decide the political line our workers will take. I will admit that over the past four years, the workers of the two parties have grown apart. But we will work together to bridge this gap, so that we can present a united front. The seats in western Maharashtra are rural, and Congress and NCP have been strong here. However, things have changed with the Shiv Sena-BJP making their presence felt in the local bodies as well as the state legislature. Thus, in Pune, we have two MPs and four MLAs in the rural areas. Click here for more Election news
How do you see the election campaign shaping up? What are the main planks on which the party will talk to voters?
Voters, over the years, have changed. As a party, we will talk about sustainable development goals that we would like to achieve. For middle and salaried classes, development is a major issue and we will base our campaign on those issues.
Do you think the strained relationship between Shiv Sena and BJP will affect the voters? Will the last-minute decision to patch up with the BJP cost the Sena?
On the contrary, voters who are not committed have received this move positively. Those who did not want to vote for Congress or NCP were also wary about voting for either BJP or Shiv Sena. But now as the alliance is on, such people will come out and vote. The Shiv Sena has always stood with farmers and ensured that their grievances are heard. The party has a strong rural imprint and we will have no problem there.
With social media taking over a major part of the discourse, how is the party’s social media presence?
The Election Commission has stated that social media can’t be used for campaigning. As a political party, we have used social media to address negative comments. We do have a strong social media presence, but it’s mostly for affirmative action. Our social media is not negative because we don’t troll. Some days ago, a young engineer had come to meet me and he put a picture on Twitter after that. So, most of our party members are spontaneous in their social media activities. As for social media, we will use it to let people know about the voting dates. Also, many go on an extended leave around Good Friday, so we will keep up the election fervour during that spell.
What are the positive and negative effects of using social media? Also, as a veteran politician, what are your observations for this election? How different is it from the previous ones?
The positive part of the present electorate is that they are not disinterested. Thanks to the affirmative presence of the Prime Minister, the voter knows about the issues. Also, after the Pulwama attack, voters know the country is ready to fight back. As a party, we will never use the armed forces for politicking but we do want to give out a strong message against anti-national activities. People can now see how Congress leaders like Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are visiting temples. When we did that, we were called right wing; so why the hypocrisy? People can see through this. On the negative side, Congress and NCP have used the social media to foment trouble among castes. We have never seen such animosity among castes in Maharashtra before.