Prithviraj Chavan says Ajit Pawar's NCP will be wiped out

What will remain is the NCP led by Sharad Pawar, says former CM

35-Prithviraj-Chavan Prithviraj Chavan | Amey Mansabdar

Interview/ Prithviraj Chavan, Congress leader and former chief minister

Q/ How do you see the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s prospects?

A/ By and large, we have succeeded in our seat-sharing [talks]. There is huge anger in Maharashtra against the Modi government. [There are] issues like inflation, unemployment and farmers’ woes, but more than that corruption is becoming an important point. [It is well known that] the government in Maharashtra was formed after horse trading and money was allegedly paid to legislators. It would not have happened without Modi’s blessings. People are not fools, they see what is happening.

They (Modi government) are arresting chief ministers. I am not going into [whether they are] guilty or not, but why don’t you try them in a court of law?

They thought the Ram Mandir would have the same impact as Balakot (India’s 2019 airstrike in Pakistani territory). That did not happen. A grand temple was built, very good. What is the role of Prime Minister Modi [in it]? Unless he says that he influenced the Supreme Court to rule in a particular way. Then that is a different matter.

Q/ Do you think your traditional voters would be happy that the Shiv Sena is with you?

A/ No. I think that was a conscious decision made in 2019. There were reservations in Delhi and among some friends here. But the BJP was vindictive in Maharashtra, using agencies to break parties. To escape that, we decided that we must stop a BJP government coming back to Maharashtra at any cost. And so, if the price had to be paid, we had to pay that price. [This] is not Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena. It is a different Shiv Sena.

The objective now is to defeat Modi. If he returns to power for the third time, things will be difficult. Democracy will be over.

Q/ Do you think Rahul Gandhi’s yatras will have an impact on the voters?

A/ It charged up the Congress, no doubt. Now whether the vote percentage will increase will be known only after the elections. But, as Rahul Gandhi said, this is not for the elections, it is to heal wounds and to bring the country together.

Q/ How will you counter this government’s pro-development, pro-infrastructure narrative?

A/ Modi is only focusing on physical infrastructure, particularly transportation infrastructure. Bridges, eight-lane highways, new airport... which is fine. The country needs modern infrastructure to attract investment. But, that is not all the country needs. It needs investment in education, skilling and a high-quality workforce. We are graduating lakhs of students. [But the] economy is not growing at the rate it should, [which means] new jobs are not being created. There is a huge unemployment challenge.

Also, he is not spending money on health, social security or farmers’ woes. It is a lopsided development model. So, maybe some in the younger generation get impressed.

And all this sloganeering about [becoming the] fifth-largest economy. That is bound to happen. Our contention is, had the country grown at the rate that it grew under Dr Manmohan Singh, we could have been number three today.

Q/ A weakened NCP and an old Sharad Pawar. How big of an asset are they for you?

A/ Sharad Pawar has had 50 years of political life. He is aged, yes, but he is still energetic. He is going all over and trying to recapture the people’s imagination. As I see it, Ajit Pawar’s NCP will be wiped out in this election. What will remain is the NCP led by Sharad Pawar. I think it will be a great source of strength for our alliance. Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar, the Congress’s base, all of them will bring some value to the table.