What work have you managed to do in your constituency in your previous term and what do you think you haven’t been able to do?
Beed is a district that didn’t even have a railway track. Since before India’s independence, the Beed-Ahmednagar-Kalyan railway line was opposed and after that since 1952 there has been no progress. I got this railway line till Amarnath built, and for 100 kms, the railway earthwork has been completed; bridges are completed and 22 kms have been completed. We’re doing a survey for the Ahmednagar to Kalyan line. This is the best work that I have done.
The second thing, what I want to do, but which hasn’t happened—we have an All India Doordarshan substation in Beed district. We need to upgrade that. But because there is so much media coming in, we have not been able to upgrade Doordarshan.
And the third thing is, I wanted a Mumbai to Shirdi train, but that will be started only this month. This is the work that I have completed, mainly it is aided by the Central government and because of it there are five trains running- Pandharpur, Miraj, Purna. There wasn’t even one train from there, now we have started five trains from there.
Your constituency is an agricultural area and a lot of this country’s labour force comes from there. What policies or legislation do you propose to work on to benefit this section of your constituency?
My district has mainly cane-cutting labour force, who cut sugarcane. And this force works in approximately 200 Maharashtra and Karnataka state government factories. We need to get a law for them, because it is an unprotected labour force. They have two problems—first is, they don’t have a place to live, so there should be a housing policy for them. And because they don’t leave their village for six months, their kids don’t go to schools. But if our government comes, then residential schools will be build for the kids of sugarcane cutter.
And the second is, there should be a law passed by the central government to protect them, as there is one for the Mathadi Kaamgar.
You recently protested against the compensation given by the central government to farmers affected by the hail storms saying that it is not enough. Do you feel that states need more power to address these issues better?
No, see there’s no suitable policy for this. There used to be one during the times of Britishers, when on less rains or more rains, farmers would receive a Payment Act that covered the losses.
After our independence, central government or state government did not make any such policy. Centre said that the state would help and the state would say that the centre would help. So I think that in the entire country, the responsibilities of the centre and the state should be clear. Till now, the relief has only come from the state government, not from the central government. The central government should give money to the state government, which would enable the state government to help. The state government has decided that it would give Rs 4500 per acre. That is not going to amount to anything. A lot of damage has been done. The farmers have been dejected and 72 of them have committed suicide. And some of them also belong to my district, 6-7 of them. Thousands of them will commit suicide, and till now no district has gotten any relief. So they should be relieved of their debt as well as their electricity bills for this year.
And every farmer should be given a relief of Rs. 25,000 per hectare, then that would amount to something; which is why I have had a meeting with the Rajyapaal. And after we come to power, even if the central government doesn’t help, our government would. I want to give this assurance to farmers.
What abou welfare schemes like MNREGA initiated by the centre? Has there been any impediment in implementing them?
As far as NREGA is concerned, it hasn’t benefited Maharashtra. NREGA is one of the face of AGS. And there was a famine in 1972, till then a scheme called AGS used to run, which used to guarantee employment. I ask what’s the use of NREGA in Maharasthra. One farmer needs to go from one field to the other, if that expense can be taken care of, then it’s useful. There are roads in villages of Maharasthra now. So it would help building roads in the village. The farmers don’t have proper roads to go from the villages to the fields. Now the reality of Maharasthra is a lot different. Now people live on the fields, not in their villages, so a lot of small housing settlements began cropping up within a space of a kilometer. So the NREGA’s money should contribute to build roads that lead to the fields from the villages. We would like to change the face of NREGA for this purpose or for conservation of water.
You had started campaigning for your first election with a very modest sum. Recently, you said that you spent around Rs 8 Crores on campaigning. Are the EC limits on expenditure on campaigning in any constituency no longer relevant?
The technology for election campaign has increased a lot. Now electronic media has become very prominent. But, having said that, last time I spent in the limits specified by the Election Commission. What I had said was that election reforms should take place. Expenditures are increasing, and that’s why I had said that political parties should be funded by the government. That was a demand I had raised, and the time has come when all political parties should think about this. And if we spend a lot on the elections and we win, then that means to be ‘clean’, a lot of people face difficulties. Which is why expenditure on elections should be decreased. And political parties should be allowed to receive cheques, and should procure money from the people. So that candidates have to spend less. If these things are implemented, then the expenditure on elections would be reduced and there would be more transparency.
Why then did you speak to the media about spending Rs 8 Crores?
No, I hadn’t said that I had to spend Rs 8 Crore. Expenditures are increasing but I didn’t spend Rs 8 Crores.
So the reports were inaccurate?
Related to that there has been a case on me, but Election Commission exonerated me. But I had not said that I have spent this much in Beed constituency.
So you are saying that a candidate should not have to spend. All expenditure must be borne by the parties?
Even the society should pitch in. At the end, the election is for the society. Candidates who have spent less should be elected. Those candidates would be able to serve the people better. Communist Party has a good system. After winning the election, they give all their money to the party. So I feel that a political party should solicit funds and spend the money by itself. The second thing is for the election the government should spend. They should help the candidates who are fighting elections.
You have also been the deputy leader of the Opposition party. According to you, how has the Opposition fared in the last 5 years?
The Opposition has done a really good job.
Can you share some highlights?
The Anna Hazare Bill, the Lokpa, we have helped them there. So, we have helped pass bills by the government, that’s the first point. The second, we raised issues of corruption—2G spectrum, Common Wealth Games, the Coalgate issue, lots of other issues. To weed out corruption and to ensure that the government doesn’t indulge in corrupt practices, we have put pressure on the ruling party. We raised our voice against inflation. We raised our voice against FDI investment. And we raised our voice related to gold. Business men have tax-related problems; BJP raised its voice for that as well.
But when you do oppose something, things tend things go out of control. And disruption of Parliament is not healthy.
The parliament should function well. Every party needs to think about this. The last five years, the parliament didn’t function well. With respect to Telangana people from the government, from Congress; they were opposing Telangana so they didn’t let the parliament function. The Opposition party didn’t stop the Parliament.
Can there be a way to prevent disruption of Parliament?
A reform should take place. There should be only one question hour—no matter what the subject.. And there should be a code of conduct. And every party should accept it. Because so many times there are other parties as well—small parties, which have 4-5 members, they are also responsible for shutting down the parliament. It’s not necessary that the party in power and BJP are solely responsible for this.
You have been campaigning against criminalisation of politics. Why has it proved so difficult to get rid of it?
I am against the criminalisation of politics. I have raised my voiced against it and I have also struggled a lot. Criminals shouldn’t be allowed to contest elections. They shouldn’t be given a chance to come into power and every party must think over this. But instead of taking the right route, the parties resort to short cuts. Criminals make use of this opportunity and enter politics. This should be stopped.
Do you think your own party is changing in this respect?
It has changed. They didn’t take Reddy this time around. It has changed. The BJP has tried.
Do you think this problem has started to afflict the national parties less than regional parties?
It’s more present in the regional parties as opposed to the national parties. But I won’t say that in the national parties, no seats were given to the criminals. There are certain seats where contestants of all the parties are criminals. The public should pressurise irrespective of the party. Even if it’s my party, and if a criminal has been given a ticket then he should lose. If the public makes sure that the candidate loses, then no party will support. If any party supports a criminal, then that party should be taught a lesson. If the public does that, then there can be improvement.
You have been accused of encouraging bogus voting in your favour on the last elections. Have you issued a statement clarifying your position?
I have said that I have never ever done bogus voting in my life. Bogus voting is equivalent to murdering the democracy. NCP has levied false allegations on me. My nephew says that one lakh bogus votes have been cast. But when my constituency has only 90,000 votes, then how can one lakh votes be bogus?
Sharad Pawar supports this. He’s openly telling people that on the April 17 you vote here, and then vote again on the May 4. So if during the election, a big political leader like him does this, then what would the people do? Strong action should be taken against him and he should be taught a lesson, so that no one supports bogus voting.
But have you verified that from your side that bogus voting didn’t take place?
I have verified that bogus voting didn’t happen at my end.
You were one of the architects of the Maha Yuti Alliance. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your alliance with the Shiv Sena?
It’s strength has been its longevity. I don’t think any alliance has lasted this long in the country—24 years.
What do you think is the reason?
See, the fact that alliance has been around for so many years is by no means ordinary. Now it is into its second generation. Pramodji and others had formed an alliance. Now I am running it. And the third generation will carry it forward. Pramodji’s children have also entered politics. So three generation running an alliance means the bond is very strong, and we agree on common issues. Which is why it can’t be dismantled by a person or group. This is one of its biggest strengths.
So what do you think is the reason behind the strength of the alliance?
There are two reasons for the strength of the alliance—one is Hindutva, the other there should be an alternative for Congress and NCP. This alliance is the best alternative for the public. If you can’t give alternative in democracy, then people won’t be able to live. That is a political necessity, and we have fulfilled that necessity.
And is the ideology of Hindutva same for the parties?
It’s not the same. No party is the same.
But they are compatible on the ideology of Hindutva?
It’s not exactly same on any issue, but it’s similar on a lot of issues.
Did your party approach the MNS or not? There are different reports on this.
See, neither the MNS nor the BJP, nor any other party initiated to form an alliance. We wanted all three of them to form an alliance. Even in its dreams, the BJP doesn’t want to form an alliance without Shiv Sena.
So why couldn’t that be successful?
Being successful is one thing, but attempts were made. So even I tried for this, and I kept saying that we should take MNS along but it couldn’t happen. Shiv Sena’s Chief Shri Bal Thackeray could have made that possible. He’s not with us today. No one else would be able to get these two brothers together. That’s what I think. So attempts were made but they weren’t successful. But the BJP is with Shiv Sena now; it will support Shiv Sena. And without Shiv Sena, BJP would never think of going to the MNS.
MNS has been indicating that there’s a faction of BJP, which they are okay with, and a faction they are not okay with . Could this muddle further deepen the cracks in the Maharashtra BJP?
This happens in politics. It’s a ploy to portray someone as weak. But the truth is, the BJP is with Shiv Sena. The BJP will follow where Shiv Sena goes. There’s no section of BJP, which is trying to align with the MNS. This doesn’t mean that we personally oppose MNS and Raj, but as an alliance we are with Shiv Sena. And we have other allied parties—Shivkari Sangathan, RPI, and Rashtriya Samaj Party—who would get support from our volunteers. No volunteer would work for MNS.
There are many changes in the BJP on the national level and not everyone in tha party is happy with them. Is there a sense that the party could implode or do you see these changes as necessary in a tectonic shift?
The changes in the BJP have been for the better. Before the election, the BJP has been given the leadership to Narendra Modi. He’s a successful politician. He’s accomplished a lot. Even outside the BJP, he has a lot of support. Sometimes the responsibilities change, and change in responsibilities is not wrong. It’s a good step and it has got support from the public.
But given the disagreements that have taken place, do you think the party is ready for these kinds of changes?
No one has disagreement with the party. In any party there are 2-4 people who are dissatisfied. If these changes hadn’t been there, they would have been still angry.
But, is it wise to alienate senior leaders with elections around the corner?
There are two parts of the change. One it has to be accepted by the party, and the second it should be accepted by the society. Till now, we haven’t got this much support from the society. Once Atalji had got such support, then Advandiji. After that, Narendra Modi is getting a lot of support. So this change has been desired by the people. I support this change. And I feel Narendra Modi will definitely win by a majority.
Do you think if people accept the changes then eventually the party will also accept the changes?
Naturally. See there’s no rift in the party as such. If you put a stone in the water, there will be some disturbance, but then after a while, the water becomes calm as well. Giving or not giving a ticket in the election—that happens in every party. But in 99% of the cases , we have made the right decisions.
RSS has been involved closely with these elections. You started out as an RSS member. What is your role in the organization now and what’s the role of the RSS in the BJP today?
When I was a student, I had worked for the RSS. But now, I don’t work for the RSS on a daily basis. But I am connected with the RSS, and it’s due to the RSS that I have joined the BJP. RSS is a non-political organisation; it’s a social organisation. They don’t participate in every election. But whenever there has been an emergency, they have participated. And right now the party thinks that since the country is going through such bad times that it wants to improve the nation and strengthen it. So because of that the RSS wants the BJP to become successful and that’s why within in its own confines, it is trying to inspire the society.
Has BJP’s relationship with the RSS become stronger?
The relationship between the RSS and BJP is good and it will be the same even under Modi because he’s also been associated with the RSS. But now the relationship between the RSS and BJP will improve further, and with their help the country will progress.
(Part of a multimedia series for India.com and DNA)