In an election year, the Shiv Sena – the principal Opposition party in the state – believes it can win more seats in the Lok Sabha than the 11 it notched up in 2009. This time the party will be fighting the polls without its founder, the late Bal Thackeray. Neelam Gorhe, Shiv Sena spokesperson and member of the legislative council, says a crumbling feudal order and growing urbanisation will help the party to consolidate its base. In an interview to dna, Neelam Gorhe criticised the state government for its insensitivity towards the Opposition and sought to downplay the impact Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) might have on the party’s fortunes. Excerpts:
What are the issues on which the Shiv Sena will contest the Lok Sabha polls?
Post-2009, we have seen many scams revealed. The economy has witnessed extreme fluctuation. This is the result of poor governance. While the common people bear the brunt of inflation, they see the ostentatious consumption of a few. We will ensure development and safeguard national pride.
A major factor in the elections will be the involvement of a significant number of youth. In the state, the plight of farmers will be an important issue.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has projected a strong prime ministerial candidate in Narendra Modi. The tussle within the BJP over his candidature has died down and Modi is largely acceptable to the parties in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
There is a perception that the Opposition has not been able to pin down the ruling party either in the state or the Centre?
The Opposition has done well in Parliament. In Maharashtra, the government has tried to monopolize any discussion, based on its majority. This is a reflection of its arrogance. Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar must rank only next to Marie Antoinette for his insensitive talk.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has worked in the prime minister’s office and would have been expected to engage in dialogue. But the government has been so insensitive that even tours of drought-affected areas are undertaken only in constituencies of elected representatives of the ruling party.
The only sector in the state that is seeing some sort of an upswing is the construction industry. But the chief minister is trying to put a spoke in the wheel. The state has been sold off to the lobby of the rich, so it is easy to make allegations against the Opposition.
What impact will Narendra Modi have in Maharashtra?
Narendra Modi is a new face and his political journey is proof of the popular support he enjoys. The BJP will gain from its allies, like the Shiv Sena and the Shiromani Akali Dal.
In Maharashtra, the growth of the Shiv Sena is related to the growth in urbanisation and the party has gained as feudal controls melt away. People, regardless of caste or religion, have benefited from the Shiv Sena’s work and they vote for us.
Though we have been labeled as being anti-Muslim, the Congress, which projects itself as the messiah of Muslims, is silent on the lack of education for Muslims and the violation of human rights of Muslim women. The Congress criticises Narendra Modi, but why does it not talk about its record on this front?
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the MNS was said to be responsible for the defeat of Shiv Sena and BJP candidates in nine constituencies. What will happen this time?
There is no need to go into this. It’s history. Many elections have taken place after that.
What is the progress on the memorial for Bal Thackeray?
The process is in progress. The civic body has constructed the ‘Smruti Udyan’ at Shivaji Park. Party chief Uddhav Thackeray and Shiv Sainiks are trying to ensure that Balasaheb’s dreams are fulfilled.