The first two polling phases showed a 12 per cent surge in voting. Is the anti-incumbency factor asserting itself?
I don’t agree with the theory that the rise in voting percentage means the tide is against the government. Voter awareness has increased tremendously because of which there has been a significant rise in polling percentage. Also, educated people are evincing deep interest in politics and want to be part of the political process. They are coming out in large numbers to exercise their franchise. In fact, the increase in voting percentage will surely help us increase our vote share.
In 2009, the Congress won 17 seats and NCP 8. Since there is double incumbency, isn’t there a possibility of the Congress-NCP alliance performance slipping down?
There is no single or double anti-incumbency factor in the state. There was anti-incumbency in 2009 too, but what happened? We grabbed maximum seats; in Mumbai, we won six out six. I am sure this time too, you will see a repeat of 2009. The main advantage is that we have fielded good candidates and their chances of winning are quite high. The situation is better compared to 2009. The Sena-MNS infighting is another plus point for us... that will help increase the victory margin of our candidates.
Why is there is so much opposition to Narendra Modi?
Frankly speaking, Modi has no intellectual ability to take people belonging to different castes and religions along with him. He is an indecisive person. India is a diverse country where we cannot afford to take decisions in the interest of one community and one religion only. He has no new statements to make. He is a revengeful person and believes in vilifying others. He is not prime ministerial material at all. As PM, we need somebody who is capable and has the vision to take all people with him.
BJP leaders have started making inflammatory statements and are indulging in personal attacks of late. What could be the reason?
The RSS is the main player in the elections. Earlier, it used to play politics while pretending that it was interested only in social and cultural activities. Now, it is openly coming out and supporting BJP candidates. This time, the RSS is fighting the election by projecting a fascist and dictator like Modi. The true colour of the RSS- BJP combine is coming out now. I am more worried and concerned about it. Such polarisation and agenda of hate is harmful to the secular fabric of our country.
There is so much infighting within the Congress and between Congress and NCP. Have you failed to pacify the rebels?
These differences are sporadic in nature. I dissuaded many rebels from contesting the elections. The infighting was restricted to 4-5 Lok Sabha seats out of 48. We tried to settle these differences in the beginning only. Besides, both the Congress and NCP expelled many activists who were creating trouble for official candidates. There was great coordination between the NCP and Congress. It will surely yield positive results.
How do you view the massive use of advertisements in this campaign?
Advertisement firms were paid a hefty sum to sell the substandard ‘Modi soap’ to voters. People have been bombarded with advertisements from all side by using all means. The people may temporarily get tempted by the glossiness of the advertisements. But before accepting or buying a product, the people will examine it closely. Once they do that, they will realise how substandard the ‘Modi soap’ is.
But you have to admit that Modi has successfully reached out to all people in the country using technology
Modi has used technology to create an artificial hype. In fact, the so-called Modi wave is diminishing now. Certain sections of the people may get impressed and succumb to such false propaganda. But the majority will realise that this is nothing but a farce. Modi used the social media unethically to malign the image of Congress leaders. They had employed trained personnel to upload wrong, fabricated and false information and morphed pictures on social media. The print media is responsible; however, social media is quite irresponsible. We do not have a mechanism to control social media.
Congress leaders have been telling Muslims and Dalits that if Modi comes to power, big riots will take place. The Dalits are being told that if Modi becomes PM, he will change the Constitution drafted by Dr BR Ambedkar? Why so much desperation?
That is not the case at all. We are only placing the facts before the people. In any case, people know the truth about the 2002 Gujarat riots. In Gujarat, only five per cent of the budget has been allotted for the welfare of Dalits. Under Congress rule, all sections of people live peacefully. We have a strong feeling that once Modi comes to power, he will alter the Constitution to suit his agenda. It is no secret that the RSS is in favour of presidential system of government. It does not believe in parliamentary democracy. Even, in the ongoing election, Modi has been campaigning like he is contesting the presidential polls.
The BJP delayed its manifesto till the end. What could be the reason?
A poll manifesto is an important document. It helps people understand the policies and vision of the political outfits. They can cast their votes accordingly. This time, the BJP did a copy-paste job. It has adopted more than half the manifesto ideas from us. There is no creativity. It shows its intellectual bankruptcy. Its ideas are hollow and shallow. Therefore, the BJP delayed the release of its manifesto. My information is that it did not want to release a manifesto in the first place. Even during the campaign, the BJP never talked about policies... it focused on making personal attacks.
Do you think the Congress has failed to reach out to people?
Partially, it is true that we could not reach out to all people. In fact, we took a lot of good decisions such as regularisation of pre-2000 slums and providing free medical services. But somehow our good programmes failed to reach all sections of people.
You have been CM for over three years. Initially you were very slow in taking decisions, but once the polls started approaching, you expedited cabinet decisions
For policy decisions, we need to take a lot of precautions. There were many complicated issues which we need to understand first. It takes time to arrive at a decision because ours is a coalition government. Our ally, the NCP, must also agree with our decisions. Moreover, to improve governance, we have started tracking the movement of files. It helps us know where the file is stuck. It is a very transparent system and is helping us reduce unwanted procedures.
What is your take on Sanjaya Baru’s book?
The book is full of false information, gossip and bogus observations. There are no substantial details to prove his claims. It is a politically-motivated book. The timing of its release raises several doubts. Profit is one of the main reasons for releasing the book in the middle of the polls. There must be other big motives behind it; time will tell the truth. I was minister of state in charge of the PMO and I can say that Congress president Sonia Gandhi never used to interfere in the government’s day-to-day administration. However, as party chief, she has to tell certain things to the prime minister because the party is also important. The parties views and policies should reflect in the government’s policies.
The book also blames you for leaking secret information to the media against Sharad Pawar when you were in the PMO
It is a baseless allegation. If Baru is saying that I leaked information against Pawar, he should prove that.
What will be the implication of a Congress rout in the nation?
If the Congress performs badly in all states, there will be no leadership change in Maharashtra. But, if it does well in other states, and not in Maharashtra, there are chances of a change here.