Former Maharashtra deputy chief minister and NCP senior leader Ajit Pawar, in an exclusive interview with Firstpost, pointed out that he has not doing wrong in irrigation project, stating that everything has been within the guidelines and by the book. The investigation is still underway and Pawar is quite positive about the results. He noted that the truth will be revealed and that he is not afraid of arrest should he be found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Over the course of the rest of this 30-minute interview, he criticised Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' style of functioning and attributes the woes suffered by the state in the past two years to the chief minister's inexperience. Pawar also attacked on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'false dream' of Acche Din. The nephew of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar said that it's because of Modi and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan's errors that the Congress and NCP sit in the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. Elsewhere in the course of the conversation, Pawar admitted that he isn't a fan of social media and trusts the people are Maharashtra to know the whole truth about Modi and Fadnavis. Edited excerpts follow:
The next five months will see elections for 215 municipal councils and 10 municipal corporations. Will the NCP tie-up with Congress or go it alone?
A formula for the elections was decided by both parties in the past. Under this, the NCP holds two MLC seats and the Congress will have one. But the deputy chairman's post will be provided to the Congress. We fulfilled our promise to the Congress. But for the forthcoming municipal council and BMC elections, the NCP and Congress have had the first round of discussions. The second round of discussions is due to take place after Ganeshotsav. But the logic and formula will be that whichever party wins the seat, will get first preference.
Recently, senior NCP leader Praful Patel attacked on former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan's style of functioning. What is your take on it?
Look at the current BJP and Shiv Sena alliance government and how they talk about each other. In the Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation election campaign, they both attacked each other below the belt. But, we saw the result. Despite all of that, when it came to the BMC, they came together to rule. Everyday, the Shiv Sena warns the Fadnavis-led government that the chief minister's decisions have not been good for the common man. But the Sena didn’t dare to withdraw the support to the government.
Sometimes, senior Congress leaders attack us too. But that's just the style of functioning of political parties. It happens. Prafullji is our senior national leader, he has spoken from his perspective. But our main focus is to sideline the Shiv Sena and BJP, who are jaatiwadi (casteist) parties. They destroy the unity of society. And so, to avoid damage to society, we always tie-up with the Congress. The main problems arise in districts where the Congress and NCP fight against each. Their karykartas don’t want an alliance. We also give them (karyakartas) the freedom to take appropriate decisions.
Has Chavan's style of functioning damaged the NCP or you, personally?
I don’t want to discuss the past. So many things have happened. In the last government, some mistakes were made. These mistakes damaged the Congress-NCP government and our party too. The government is to be blamed for its lack of speed in decision-making. Senior ministers have repeatedly made mistakes and as a result of that, today, we are sitting in the Opposition. I don't want to take any names, but of course, the party has suffered damage. But now, we've decided to leave the past in the past and to concentrate on stopping the BJP government that is presently in power.
Chavan has been maintaining good relations with the Shiv Sena, but he has always been thinking about cutting the NCP down to size. What is your understanding of this situation?
I don’t think the Congress high command had given directions to Chavan to cut the NCP down to size. I have heard that he has a good rapport with the Shiv Sena. In the past 15 years, the Congress and NCP have been together in government. But then a string of chief ministers like Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde, Deshmukh again and then Ashok Chavan ran the government. But, we had no problem with any of them and no complaints against them. It was only the last government (the one led by Prithviraj Chavan) in which something went wrong. Everyone has his or her own style of functioning. It's just that some mistakes led to us having to sit in the Opposition. In future, we won't not repeat these mistakes. I hope not.
Chavan will answer Patel's allegation in a day or two. What do you think he's going to say?
How can I comment before Chavan has spoken? Let him speak first, then we will see. But we've made our stand and policy known clearly on numerous occasions. Personally, I am not afraid.
How is your relationship with Chavan?
Whenever We met as part of a delegation, we stuck to our respective party lines. His party is different from mine. Also, there has been no personal communication, since Chavan's districts are different and we are both busy strengthening our own parties.
There is an ACB inquiry into the Rs 70,000-crore irrigation project underway. Did you support the investigation?
I'm aware that the ACB inquiry is going on. I personally assure you that I did nothing wrong. Whatever decisions we took in the capacity of ministers, were within the guidelines and by the book. We are fully cooperating with the investigating team.
I don't want to take any names, but of course, the party has suffered damage. But now, we've decided to leave the past in the past and to concentrate on stopping the BJP government that is presently in power
Are you afraid of arrest?
The matter is subjudice and an inquiry is ongoing. We are ready to face any inquiry and I am not afraid of anything. We did nothing wrong. The corruption allegations are baseless and they were only politically-motivated. So I can't say any more on this issue. I will offer no comment on the ACB inquiry.
Has law and order collapsed in the state?
The current government is not protecting our police force. The law and order situation has totally collapsed. There have been repeated attacks on the police and in some incidents, policemen have lost their lives. This is the sort of weak government that the people of Maharashtra have not seen before. The government failed.
Would you agree that there is no control of the administration at present?
Without the concerned minister and chief minister's approval, not a single draft can be uploaded. When the issue boomerangs on the government, the government will make an officer the scapegoat. This is a total failure.
Do you think a full-time home minister is needed?
In the government, it's the chief minister's decision as to who holds the home ministry portfolio. I don’t want to weigh in on this discussion. Whether full-time or part-time, our main demand is that whosoever is in charge of the home ministry, should be capable of running the department. Nobody will then dare to attack the police force. An appropriate home minister can make the state police the strongest in the country. But in the past two years, attacks on the police have increased. Someone must take responsibility for this.
But it's not just this. In every segment, people are unhappy with this BJP government. Women, Dalits, farmers and students everywhere will tell you how the government failed to protect their security. Is this governance?
The education department is in a complete mess. Now they are thinking of meddling with Maths and English?
It's total madness by the government. We all complete our study from schools and colleges. We had English and Maths. But the current education minister has pulled out this 'great' idea to drop Maths and English for failed students. As a minister, he takes a decision based on consultations with experts from this field. But no one can fathom changing English and Maths. It's total madness by the education minister and government.
Fadnavis directly became chief minister. He has no other experience of government... Only someone with that experience can understand the style of functioning of a government.
Fadnavis is taking action against BJP leaders like Eknath Khadse, Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde too. Are his actions prejudiced?
It's an internal BJP matter. I am not interested in what the chief minister does with his own ministers. But yes, there is some buzz that every minister in the government is unhappy.
Your close supporter from Pune, MLA Laxman Jagtap has joined the BJP and Mahesh Landage seems to be on his way to the BJP. Whata are your thoughts?
There is no loyalty in any party. One-time allies leave us and join the BJP, but when we come to power, you see their situation. People also known that who is coming in party for what goal. But its short term goal. They always change the colours. Some people are salute the Sun who is upcoming.
Are you a chief ministerial candidate for 2019?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed the false dream of Acche Din to Indians. We have all seen what happened. I am not one to show false dreams to anyone. We are in 2016 and the Assembly election is in 2019. People mandated us to sit in Opposition. Now I am focusing on what the Opposition's role should be. So discussing the possibility of me as chief minister is pointless.
Will the BJP once again win the municipal council elections?
The people who brought the BJP to power at the Centre and the state are totally helpless. The promise of Acche Din was also broken by the prime minister. But, voters Know everything. So let's see what they think about the BJP government.
Women, Dalits, farmers and students everywhere will tell you how the government failed to protect their security. Is this governance?
How would you rate the chief minister's performance so far?
Fadnavis directly became chief minister. He has no other experience of government. In the past, only Manohar Joshi directly became chief minister, but apart from him, all other chief ministers had worked as state ministers or cabinet ministers. So, only someone with that experience can understand the style of functioning of a government.
Will Fadnavis complete his five-year term as chief minister?
Fadnavis' future is in the hands of Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. So as long as they want Fadnavis as chief minister, he will continue to be chief minister. At present, he has the strong support of both of them.
These days Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN etc are being used effectively by politicians to communicate with their electorate. What is your take on social media?
Social media is not always a good thing. It's a double-edged sword since it could boomerang at any time on anyone. The chief minister and prime minister have both faced social media anger on separate instances.