Maharashtra Congress President Nana Patole talks about the current political climate in Maharashtra, whether the Congress plans to contest the upcoming municipal elections on its own and why he believes Gandhis are needed for Congress unity .
Vishwas Waghmode: You had confronted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and criticized him when you were in the BJP. What were your reasons for doing it?
Notebandi and GST were introduced to weaken the country. When I asked the Prime Minister about the effects of Notebandi and the GST in 2017, he was angry. At that time, people never spoke against him. Nobody wrote against him. Modiji doesn’t like being questioned. He was angry, so I was told to sit down. In a democracy, if you can’t ask questions, that’s bad. I resigned.
Sandep Singh: The Congress had taken a position to fight against the municipal elections independently. Is there any change in the stand?
In accordance with our political strategy, the Congress fought alone against the partial elections of local bodies and the results were good. A large number of city councils, city corporations and zilla parishads will be heading to the polls in the coming months. In view of the local situation, we will contest these elections independently.
Vishwas Waghmode: Earlier you told Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray that it would be better to fight the election alone as the votes of Congress and Shiv Sena will not be transferred to each other. After the results of five state elections, will you contest the elections as part of Maha Vikas Aghadi or independently?
There is a difference in the vote bank of Congress and the Shiv Sena. When there are elections, there are disadvantages. The CM is also of the same opinion. The MVA government was formed due to circumstances. For the Congress, it was not possible to associate with the Shiv Sena. However, considering the situation, Soniaji made the decision to join the government. Our intention was to save democracy and serve the people. A common minimum program has been prepared for the formation of the government. The high command decides whether or not to pursue this alliance.
Vishwas Waghmode: Is Congress planning to challenge the polls of 10 municipalities including Mumbai independently or as part of an alliance?
These elections are reserved for party workers, so they must be given a chance. Independently challenging the polls of local bodies helps the party broaden its base. In Maharashtra, the Congress has a substantial base. As for Mumbai, we will challenge the polls independently.
Sandeep Singh: There have been constant accusations against MVA ministers and questions raised against some senior police officers. Do you think that tarnishes the image of the government?
False allegations are made against the government. As you have seen the USB key with 120 hours of footage (wiretapping). Who knows what is true in this, but this matter was put by him (former CM Devendra Fadnavis) before the Assembly. While the truth will eventually prevail, the image of government and administration is tarnished and Maharashtra is vilified. Once the public sees and understands the reality, those who defame the state will be in trouble.
Yogesh Naik: Your phone was tapped during the tenure of the BJP government. Why do you think you were targeted?
The Fadnavis government was then in charge and the entire police department was used to tap the phones of journalists, IPS and IAS agents as well as members of political parties. The blackmail and hate policy started in the state under the BJP rule. Rashmi Shukla, (then Commissioner of the State Intelligence Department) who tapped these phones, had to get permission from the Director General of Police and then from the state government. Phones cannot be tapped without permission. If someone does it, then he is the culprit. The government has given its approval, but there is a limit to the number of days a phone can be tapped…it cannot be done for a year. My name was mentioned as Amjad Khan instead of Nana Patole. How was it approved for the second time? My phone was tapped for 70 days. The strategy of this BJP is its “Gujarat Pattern”, which is a pattern of blackmail. And the same model was introduced in Maharashtra by the Fadnavis government. It is shameful and it does not happen in Maharashtra.
Yogesh Naik: Many Congress ministers have complained that their ministries are not getting enough funds. Do you think they get mother-in-law treatment in the MVA government?
It happens. Even within the Modi government, Nitin Gadkari is also complaining. Here, it is a tripartite government. Financial problems that increased after the Covid-19 pandemic impacted government infrastructure projects. I feel that in the next budget, there will be improvements. All backlog will be cleared.
Laxman Singh: The Prime Minister recently accused the Maharashtra government of asking migrants to leave the state and blamed it for the spread of Covid-19. How about that?
The entire nation has different expectations of the prime minister. He should no longer behave like a member of a particular party. During a parliamentary speech, the Prime Minister expressed himself as an RSS militant. How long will the BJP continue to blame others for its misdeeds? Now that you have the power, why not do something good?
Sandeep Singh: Two MVA ministers are in jail due to actions taken by central agencies and recently special prosecutor Pravin Chavan resigned in connection with the audio recordings in the Jalgaon case. Many organizations are taking action. Do you think the BJP will be more aggressive after its victory (in the recent assembly elections)?
Anyone who does anything wrong in this country, our nation’s democracy does not accept it. The BJP thinks that since they are elected by the people and have a majority government, they can do anything. Samay Sabka hota hai. Revenge politics and misuse of central agencies take place. I have been in politics for almost 30 years. We never heard of ED earlier. Now even a simple villager who grazes cows/cattle knows the name ED. The ED was a Brahmastra (rarely used weapon), which they made a common thing. Someone says something and people are booked by ED. This vindictive policy started in the country after the Modi government took power. However, that won’t last long.
Vishwas Waghmode: On the OBC’s reservation, you had expressed concern that the Supreme Court might reject the 27% reservations. What went wrong with MVA’s handling of this issue?
It is clear that the BJP, through the Uniform Civil Code, wants to end reservation in the country. First, he wants to remove the OBC reservation, and second, to remove the reservation for the SC/ST communities. The BJP wants that in any condition, a certain feeling of discord and social dissatisfaction remains. It’s like the fable we heard in our childhood of a rabbit who feels a cloud burst when a leaf falls on him. The BJP also uses the same technique. It creates paranoia to divert from the main issues. They want people to keep fighting for reservations while the main issue, including employment, remains unexplained.
Vishwas Waghmode: Congress is facing a leadership crisis. Do you think there is a need for change?
Internal party elections must take place now. An announcement was made to the Congressional Working Committee. The membership campaign has been launched and will continue until March 31. After that, internal elections will take place. The constitutional process of the party will be followed and Rahulji will become the chairman of the party. All Congress workers have respect for the Gandhi family and will continue to feel the same in the future as well. No one can end this. The Gandhi family is the heart of Congress workers.