Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut says politics is being corporatized after floor crossing and horse trading
Geetanjali Minhas | October 16, 2019 | Mumbai
A three-term Rajya Sabha member, Sanjay Raut is the Shiv Sena spokesperson and its voice in parliament. He is also the executive editor of Marathi newspaper Samana, started by Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. Raut spoke with Geetanjali Minhas on his party’s seat-sharing agreement with the BJP for the coming Maharashtra assembly elections, why a strong opposition is crucial for the country and on Aditya Thackeray’s candidature.
Initially Shiv Sena had said that there will be equal distribution of the assembly seats with the BJP, but now the party is contesting, for the first time, on a lesser number of seats. Why did you settle for 124 seats?
Yes, that is true. When [BJP president] Amit Shah had come over to Matoshree before the Lok Sabha elections, we had discussed that we will do seat-sharing in appropriate manner. It is true that they had given us an extra seat in the Lok Sabha elections and we had discussed seat sharing on a 50:50 formula for the Vidhan Sabha elections, but we agreed to the present arrangement. No doubt, the BJP had massive mandate from people but they also have to share seven-eight seats each with their allies like the Republican Party of India, Rashriya Samaj Paksha and Shiv Sangram. They asked us to consider these things; so we decided to go ahead with this arrangement and take a relook after elections.
Your party has said that Maharashtra’s next chief minister will be from Shiv Sena. What is the likelihood of that happening, considering BJP is in the driver’s seat?
As of now they are, but in future who will be in the driver’s seat will be decided on October 24 only. Firstly, as per our agreement and commitment with Amit Shah, seat sharing had to be done on the 50:50 formula. Now, if that has not worked out, as per the second commitment, power sharing has to be done on 50:50 basis. This means that whether it is the CM’s post or other portfolios, these will have to be shared on 50:50 basis. Now, whether power sharing actually works out based on our agreed 50:50 formula, we will know only on October 24.
During the state cabinet expansion, it is said that BJP had offered the deputy CM post to Shiv Sena but your party had refused. Why?
Look, the assembly elections were round the corner and that [arrangement] would have been for a very short period of two-three months. There was no need for us to go ahead with such a proposition and we decided to wait till the results of assembly elections were out.
You have once said that democracy becomes weak and politics become unilateral if there is no strong opposition party. How do you view the present situation where the opposition has steadily gone weaker and failed to build an anti-incumbency narrative?
Yes, that is true. Balasaheb Thackeray said the same. This is also Shiv Sena’s ideology. In parliamentary democracy it is important to have strong opposition. Now if we eliminate opposition it will not only end democracy but also the country. Opposition is the voice of people, whether we agree with them or not. It is an alternate voice where they will say what they want and we will say what we want. Especially in the assembly and parliament there must be strong opposition. This has always been Shiv Sena’s stand.
Now if the opposition is weak you cannot blame the government for that. The leader of opposition is mentally unstable. Indira-ji was the strongest leader and after her demise there has been no strong leadership [in the Congress]. Even though India Gandhi was a strong leader, there was strong opposition too who fought with her because those leaders of that time matched her stature. The Congress, as the principal opposition party, failed to elect a president four months before the assembly elections and 72-year-old Sonia Gandhi is compelled to take charge as interim president. This is not good for opposition.
Do you think issues like potholed roads, frequent flooding, recurring bridge collapse, economic slowdown and farm distress could impact voting?
Why not? They can. Whether it is Mumbai, Maharashtra or any other place in the country, road conditions due to heavy rains have an impact. The government must address these issues. We cannot deny these issues which affect daily lives of people. We travel on the same roads and also bear the brunt. Two days back, it took me nine hours instead of usual six hours to reach Nandurbar due to road conditions.
Shiv Sena is against the Metro’s plan to set up a car shed in Aarey Colony. How do you expect to deal with this issue with BJP after the elections?
Our stand will remain the same after the elections too and we will continue to oppose the proposed car shed at Aarey. There will be no compromise on this issue and we will continue to fight it. For us this is not a political issue because Aarey is Mumbai’s oxygen factory and if Mumbai is deprived of oxygen, Mumbai will die.
BJP MLA Ram Kadam has said that Mumbai has more trees per sq km compared to Tokyo, New York or London.
We will first speak about Mumbai and later think of New York and London. We are much behind New York and even furthermore from London.
Can the Aarey and PMC Bank controversies impact the election outcome?
I don’t think Aarey will impact much even though people are very angry and we have assured them. The PMC Bank issue can possibly have some impact as there are some constituencies in Mumbai and outside where people have been badly affected due to the bank fraud. As the bank customers belong to the middle class and lower middle class it is bound to have an impact.
How do you view mass defections across parties? Do you see a new political scene emerging?
If people from outside join my party it could be due to helplessness or compulsion, and even for me for that matter. With politics now becoming a game of numbers the culture of ‘Aaya Ram Gaya Ram’ is gaining ground. These things happened earlier too but not to this extent. Earlier if some important leader had ideological differences they would leave the party. It happened during Indira-ji’s time when Chandra Shekhar left the party due to ideological differences. Jagjivan Ram, Krishna Kant, and Mohan Dharia also left the party. They were tall leaders. These days, people don’t leave and join parties due to ideological differences but to save their assembly or parliamentary seats. They see how the wind blows and make their decisions accordingly. Definitely, a new political scene is emerging. Due to floor crossing, turncoats and political horse trading, politics is being corporatized. This seems to be the new political discourse with younger generation as against our idealist generation.
Voters this time will be confused due to large scale defections because candidates they voted for earlier are now in the party they didn’t vote for or their choice of party to vote for now has candidates who lost last time for the party they represented. Your views.
Voters are never confused and have their own mindset. Our voters are very smart and know what they want.
Caste or performance, which do you think is a factor in elections?
I feel elections should be performance based. Shiv Sena is a performance and ideology based party and that is how we work.
A Thackeray family member is contesting elections for the first time. How do you see the party emerging under Aditya Thackeray?
Look, the party was founded by Balasaheb Thackeray and follows his ideals. The Thackeray family is instrumental in keeping the party united. Forget politics, our party will never work without its ideals. Uddhav Thackeray has led the party after Balasaheb’s demise and now if Aditya Thackeray wants to lead the party we will all support him. If Balasaheb and Uddhav never fought elections but now Aditya wants to fight elections, I believe it is a matter of pride for the party that our future state leader is now within the family. Till now there was an alliance leader but if the future state leader is from the Thackeray family it will be easier for us to work on our dreams.
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