Q. What is the current political scenario in Maharashtra?
MT: The situation is not adverse for the Congress party as was predicted earlier. It is improving day by day. In a primary survey, we were losing a couple of Lok Sabha seats in Mumbai, but in the rest of Maharashtra, mainly in Vidarbha and Marathwada, we were gaining. We are confident of getting 20-22 seats against the earlier 17.
Q. Is there a Modi wave in the state too?
MT: There is no Modi wave at all. If there was one, then we would not have got a majority in the local body polls recently. This proves that the Modi factor has not had any impact in state politics.
Q. Who is heading the poll campaign? Is it you or CM Prithviraj Chavan?
MT: As the MPCC president, I will lead the campaign across the state. I have been the president for six years and I tour extensively for various functions and rallies. I am in touch with the people. I have given Congress activists continuous programmes and made them active. As a result, our grass roots network has been strengthened. I know the ground level better than anyone else. So, naturally, I will lead the campaign. Besides, our leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi will be there from time to time. NCP and Congress will kick-start the campaign with a joint rally in Pune on March 26.
Q. Sonia Gandi does not seem to be active. Is there a health reason?
MT: Soniaji is very much active. She always meets and briefs us from time to time. She has total control over the organisation. She will address a few rallies in the state. Rahulji is interacting with various sections of people through community and group interaction programmes.
Q. What will be the campaign issues?
MT: UPA-II and the state government had done various works and undertaken huge infrastructure projects. We will reach out to people and remind them about these projects. Among them are Food Security Bill, Rajiv Gandhi Jivandyai Yojana, Rajiv Awas Yojana, etc. Besides, we are also helping the hailstorm-affected farmers without any delay.
Q. Congress workers are not working where NCP candidates are fielded and vice versa. What is the problem?
MT: There are some differences at a few places. To iron out these differences, we have set up a joint coordination committee comprising the chief minister, deputy chief minister and state presidents of both the Congress and NCP. There are also three ministers from each party in it. We will soon have a meeting in this regard and jointly write to the party cells appealing them to bury all hatchets and start campaigning for the officially-nominated candidate.
Q. Will it work?
MT: Sure, it will. If someone doesn't work accordingly, then strict action will be taken against that party activist. As a disciplinary measure, the worker may even be expelled.
Q. There is no sizeable nomination of women from the Congress; why?
MT: Priya Dutt is there in Mumbai. We wanted to give more tickets to women representatives but we are only contesting 27 seats. So, we had little scope to accommodate women candidates in large numbers. But, in future, we will surely increase the number.
Q. What is your take on Sharad Pawar's bogus voting statement?
MT: Pawar saheb had already clarified that he had spoken in a lighter vein. He is a senior leader and he would not commit any such mistake. I do not see any issue in that. However, the lesson to be learnt from this episode is that as leaders, we have to spend more time on what not to speak rather than on what to speak.
Q. What will be the impact of MNS and AAP?
MT: MNS and AAP are parts of the RRS ideology. Our vote bank is solid. We do not need MNS's internal or external support to win the election. Same is the case with AAP. They do not have any credible and crowd-pulling face in the state. AAP members were elected in the Delhi assembly polls on different issues. But those factors are negligible in our state. They may eat some votes here but no one is in competition and is capable to win.
Q. The party denied your son a ticket. Why?
MT: My son was interested in contesting the polls. However, the party decided not field him. We have to accept the decision. I have no grouse against it.