dna interviewed Deshpande (40) on his controversial stand. Excerpts:
Why did you object to the 'Sandesh' ads? They were innocuous in nature.
They were not as innocuous as you think. In fact, many people called me after they saw these ads and pointed out to their misleading nature. The ads ask in Gujarati: "Mumbai na arthik and boudhik pragati ma kaun che?', giving the impression that only Gujaratis had contributed to the economic and intellectual growth of Mumbai. This is a totally false claim. Every community has contributed. It was wrong on the part of 'Sandesh' to make it appear as if Gujaratis had made all the contributions. It was only after several people told me about it that I saw the ads, and was convinced that the content was totally wrong and uncalled for. Did Bal Thackeray and others not contribute to the intellectual and economic growth of Mumbai? It was Balasaheb's vision to build over 50 flyovers in Mumbai and also the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Like many others, I felt hurt by these ads. That is when I decided to complain to BEST management, and demanded that they be pulled down immediately.
But it appears your attack on the ads was part of the ongoing rivalry between Shiv Sena and MNS. 'Saamna' recently carried an editorial targeting Mumbai Gujaratis, and as an MNS activist, you raised this issue not to be left behind. Please comment.
There is absolutely no truth in that. My complaint to BEST authorities has nothing to do with the Saamna editorial. I took up the issue, as it was a question of Marathi "asmita" (pride). Please do not forget that a few years ago when Raj Thackeray demanded that the names of all shops and restaurants be in Marathi, it was a Gujarati, Viren Shah, who opposed it. I am of the firm opinion that nobody's sentiments should be hurt. There is no question of any competition between Shiv Sena and MNS. Mine was a stand-alone action in tune with my party's stand that no one should do anything that will demean Marathi pride.
But you certainly cannot deny the enormous contribution the Gujarati community has made to the development of the share bazar, textile, real estate and grains market.
Nobody is denying that. But for heaven's sake, don't make it appear as if only the Gujaratis have contributed. I wish to make that very clear. Is Ratan Tata's contribution to our city's development any less?
Some time ago, Swabhiman Sanghatana leader Nitesh Rane had declared that all those Gujaratis who are enamoured of Gujarat's economic development should go to Gujarat. He had stated that while
Maharashtra had progressed much more than Gujarat, many Gujaratis were looking only at the growth of Gujarat. Do you agree with him?
I do not wish to comment on Nitesh's statement or Sanjay Raut's editorial in Saamna.
If you are so much opposed to Gujaratis, why is MNS supporting the candidature of a Gujarati leader, Narendra Modi, for prime ministership?
I wish to clarify that we have nothing against Gujaratis. Our only request is that please do not hurt Marathi sentiments. What is wrong with that?