Q/ Why go on a statewide Maha Janadesh Yatra?
The yatra was launched to communicate with the people. When we are in the opposition, we do sangharsh (struggle); when we are in power, we believe in having samvaad (dialogue). This is a BJP tradition.
Q/ A number of leaders from the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have joined the BJP. How many are in the queue?
A/ The queue is long. Activists and leaders do not see any future in the Congress and the NCP. These people [the Congress] oppose the abrogation of Article 370. We are correcting the mistake made at the time of independence by abrogating the article. At the same time, we have launched massive development work.
So activists and leaders from these parties feel that the future is with us; so they want to join. But we cannot accept everyone. We have an open-door policy for activists. But for leaders, we have a filtration policy.
Q/ What are the criteria for filtration?
A/ The personality of the leader, his track record, his mass appeal and merit—there are many criteria. We are focusing only on those who will stay with us for the long term.
Sharad Pawar says the BJP is using the threat of CBI and Enforcement Directorate inquiries to lure opposition leaders.
A/ How time has turned against him! They spent their entire life splitting parties and breaking away leaders, using various institutions to put pressure. I want to tell them to introspect about why people are leaving them. We have never used the CBI or the ED to lure anyone. We don’t need to do it; we have huge support.
Q/ Are you 100 per cent confident that the BJP and the Shiv Sena will fight the elections as allies?
A/ I am confident 101 per cent that we will fight the elections together.
Q/ What formula have you finalised for seat-sharing ?
A/ We will go ahead as per our 50:50 agreement. There will be some changes here and there; some seats will be exchanged.
Q/ So will you share the post of chief minister for two and a half years each?
A/ No. Only three of us (Fadnavis, BJP president Amit Shah and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray) know what has been discussed about the post of chief minister and power-sharing. We will announce it at an appropriate time.
Q/ As chief minister, what was the most challenging problem that you faced?
A/ Agrarian crisis. It started 20-25 years ago, and we are still working on it. To some extent we have succeeded in finding solutions, but we have to achieve a lot more. Our grand theme for the next five years is ‘Drought-free Maharashtra’. Our resolve is to divert excess water, which flows into the sea, and make it available in parts of the state that face acute water shortage every year.
Q/ Jalyukt Shivar was your grand scheme. How successful was it?
A/ It has been hugely successful. We faced drought in four of the past five years. Had the scheme not been implemented, we would have had a very tough time. We could save crops because this scheme provided protective irrigation when the rains failed.
Q/ The opposition has levelled allegations against the scheme.
A/ I am not saying that the scheme was 100 per cent corruption-free. Corruption may have happened in some places, may be in three or four taluks. But you must understand that the government was not playing the role of the contractor. The government was providing money and villages were working for the scheme. So, to say that there was large-scale corruption will be an injustice to villages and the people who worked wholeheartedly.
Q/ You have always said that Maharashtra is attracting huge investments. But how many memorandums of understanding have been realised?
A/ The rate of realisation of MoUs in India is 35 per cent. In Maharashtra, it is 45 per cent. In the case of MoUs signed during two of our mega events—Make In India and Magnetic Maharashtra—the rate of realisation is 60 per cent. Maharashtra has the highest investment and realisation rate in India.
Q/ For urban voters, you have massive infra projects like metro rail. What do you have for rural voters?
A/ Our biggest work in rural parts is the Mukhyamantri Gram Sadak Yojana (Chief Minister Rural Roads Scheme). We completed 30,000km of road network in the past five years. No other state has achieved this.
We gave drinking water to 18,000 villages. We are helping farmers in various ways. For instance, to start 10,000 agriculture societies, we are doing end-to-end digitisation of the cropping pattern. There is Nanaji Deshmukh Krishi Prakalp for 5,000 villages. Under this project, we are giving end-to-end solutions for soil, harvesting and post-harvesting technologies.
In terms of health care, Maharashtra was number six nationally. Now it is number three. In terms of education, we used to fluctuate between positions 13th and 18th; now we are number 3. We have strengthened zilla panchayat-level schools, too. One lakh students who had gone to private schools have returned to zilla-panchayat schools.
Q/ Has the farm-loan waiver really helped farmers?
A/ Farm-loan waiver is not an end in itself; it is one of the means. I had said this at the time of announcing the waiver. The farmer who is forced out of the institutional credit system is vulnerable. The waiver was to bring him back into the system.
Q/ The Congress and the NCP have launched their yatras. You are the target of their attacks.
A/ I know there will be a lot of mudslinging. But what is important is to see whether they get the support of the people. The Congress launched its yatra from the same place where I launched the Maha Janadesh Yatra. There were nearly a lakh people when I started my yatra. On the other hand, the Congress could not get people to fill up even a marriage hall.
Q/ What target have you set for the saffron alliance?
A/ We haven’t decided on any target as such. But I can tell you that it will be an unprecedented victory for the BJP-led alliance.
Q/ Would you like to be chief minister again, or would you like to go to Delhi?
A/ I am happy anywhere. Whatever little politics I understand, I feel that the party will keep me in Maharashtra for the next few years.