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'There is only one Hindu hriday samrat'
Pankaj Upadhyaya and Rajeev D Pai |
February 06, 2003 18:05 IST
Part I: 'We do not have a magic wand'
In the second and concluding part of an exclusive interview, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal tells Deputy Managing Editor Rajeev D Pai and News Editor Pankaj Upadhyaya that the people of the state have tested the Shiv Sena-BJP government and will not repeat their mistake.
You are talking of a pre-poll alliance when the next election is almost two years away. That is unprecedented. Is there a feeling in your party and the Congress that though they fight with each other, the Sena and the BJP have made inroads into areas that were once your strongholds?
They have made inroads into our areas, but that's not a new development. In the last election also, Sena-BJP candidates won all over the state.
Election propaganda for the Sena-BJP is very easy. Call Musharraf names -- Mian Musharraf. Call Bangladesh names. Provoke Hindus against Muslims.
But they are getting results.
Unfortunately, they are...
How are you going to counter this propaganda?
These tactics of the Sena-BJP are nothing new. They used these in 1995 and got the desired results. The Sharad Pawar government failed to win a positive mandate because of the 1992-93 riots. Not only that, from one or two BJP MPs, the party managed to assume power in Delhi only because of what they managed to do in Ayodhya. So it's not that they are going to try anything new now. The only difference is that Maharashtra has already tested these people and their Hinduism for four-and-a-half years. They voted for the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, they brought them to power, but then they saw the people who suffered were Hindus. There was corruption uncontrolled.
We are still struggling with the repercussions of their financial indiscipline. There was no law and order. People were afraid of entering a police station. Because they knew sitting there would be a [Shiv Sena] shakha pramukh. Might as well approach the shakha pramukh directly. All that has been stopped. No extortions/murders in the city. People approach the police with more confidence. They speak to the home minister directly and get results.
Coming back to politics, the rally of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it was a huge success going by the number of people they got in Shivaji Park...
It doesn't bother me. Because Narendra Modi, whatever his ideology, he fought an election in Gujarat and won. Naturally, people are attracted to him. This was his first visit to Mumbai after the election in Gujarat, so it was a big rally. But tell me, when Narendra Modi comes again, how many people will take cognisance of it... hamare ghar mein bhi aisa hota hai, nayi bahu ko dekhne sab aate hain... (it happens in every household, a new bride is always a big attraction).
The BJP now calls him Hindu hriday samrat [king of Hindu hearts].
That's an injustice to Bal Thackeray. Shiv Sena should take note of this [smirks]. On the floor of the assembly when they called [Pravin] Togadia Hindu hriday samrat, I objected. I said this is injustice... there is only one Hindu hriday samrat. Where has this other Hindu hriday samrat come from? [Laughs]
You were part of the Sena once. You understand how the party works. Do you think this could lead to serious problems between the Sena and BJP?
Look, this is not the first time. They have had serious differences on several issues and have fought bitterly over them. Just recall how many times Bal Thackeray has threatened to withdraw support to the central government. But then what happens? [Deputy Prime Minister L K] Advani comes to Bombay. He sits in the Airport Centaur, Bal Thackeray meets him, ok, ok, ok... goody, goody, goody... and everything is fine.
It's simple. The Shiv Sena needs the BJP and the BJP needs Shiv Sena. And they both need power. They know, if they contest elections independently, oh, no way! they cannot win. But together they can get a good result. That is why they will stick together.
What will be the main issue in the next election? Will it be communalism or will you be able to make development the issue?
People are very clever. Mumbai has witnessed one riot. They suffered. After that the Sena-BJP government came to power and people saw what their capabilities were. I don't think people will repeat the mistake. They may have mastered the art of organising big rallies, but people will not vote for them. It's simple -- common people value peace, law and order. Peace is important for progress. If there is law and order, people will put up new establishments, new industries will come to the state, there will be more employment opportunities, the government will get more revenue. I am sure people feel safe in Mumbai, in Maharashtra.
When the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance was in power, hoteliers wanted to leave the state. Doctors were being killed for extortion. Film producers told me on more than one occasion that they wanted to move to Hyderabad. They said this city is no longer safe. I told them, give me two months. Now, everything is fine. More and more people are coming back to the city.
After 1992-93 there has been no problem in Bombay, but outside...
There always will be small skirmishes. A Hindu boy is flying a kite, a Muslim boy cuts his string... a fight breaks out. Are you going to call it a Hindu-Muslim riot? A bicycle rider bumps into a pedestrian, a fight breaks out, 10 people join them. Are you going to call it a riot? Now, Hindus get into such fights among themselves daily. Same is true for Muslims. But nobody bothers.
Yes, what happened in Malegaon was a riot. What happened in Jalgaon was a riot. I accept that. But tell me, when our neighbouring state Gujarat was burning for six months, was a single incident reported in Maharashtra? Maharashtrians and Gujaratis have relationships that go beyond state boundaries. Crores of Maharashtrians are settled in Gujarat. Crores of Gujaratis have made Maharashtra their home.
Naturally, there was some tension in Maharashtra, and Sainiks and BJP people tried repeatedly to fan this tension. Whenever some disturbance takes place, you ask the government. Why don't you ask Bal Thackeray, this Togadia… they are the people responsible for all these disturbances.
They have a simple formula -- spark a riot, come to power. But how long will this formula work? One has to provide people food, houses, employment... On this front they have failed and will fail.
You mentioned Bollywood. You said several big stars wanted to leave the state. You asked them to give you some time to clean up the place. But in the Bharat Shah case all these stars, all these big shots, they are not even willing to give witness...
If you ask me they are providing witness, but only half. They recognize their voice, but do not know the person they are talking to. They have spoken for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, without knowing whom they were talking to... But I don't want to discuss this case further because it's sub-judice.
But you remain confident about the prosecution's case?
Very much so. I still think we can win.
About extraditing criminals hiding in Dubai and other places. You managed to get two persons who are suspects in the Ghatkopar blast, but when a big shot like Anees Abrahim or Abu Salem gets caught, the police are unable to even find his fingerprints to identify him.
Is this true? [turns to an officer assisting him in the interview. The latter says it is not true and that fingerprints were provided to Interpol as sought]. Fingerprints were given. Absolutely there was no problem. But then a lot depends on the central government and the government they are dealing with.
But what exactly is the problem? A small criminal gets caught and he gets extradited immediately. But when it's a big fish there are problems.
I don't want to say anything because at least they have given us two persons. But at the same time, the central government must try their level best to get those people back. They should put pressure on these countries. The Shiv Sena and the BJP, they are part of that government, they should do something. As far as I am concerned, I spoke to Advanisaab on a number of occasions; I spoke to the minister of external affairs on a number of occasions. I am the only man who takes names when it comes to the underworld. And we have taken action against them. This Bharat Shah case, we have struck directly against Chhota Shakeel.
The two blasts, one in Ghatkopar and the other more recently in Vile Parle, police say they were the handiwork of the Students Islamic Movement of India.
We have not yet arrived at any conclusion. The investigations are on.
Not even for the Ghatkopar one?
No, no... you people publish whatever you want, we cannot stop you. When you ask me, I say unless and until a confirmation comes I cannot name any group.
So, it's not yet clear which group was involved?
We have to wait and watch. Investigations are on. As of now we do not have any proof of SIMI's involvement.
But do you think SIMI has been able to establish cells in Maharashtra?
SIMI is banned...
That's fine. But is it active in Maharashtra clandestinely?
I don't think so. SIMI is not active. But it is possible that some people associated with SIMI are working under some other name. That again is a matter of investigation.
You been touring the state. How do you see the political situation in Maharashtra?
If the NCP and the Congress put in place a pre-poll alliance, there should not be any problem. The Sena-BJP alliance have been shouting, they will continue to shout. Bal Thackeray's rallies will be huge. That's how things have been for over 35 years now. I was a witness to all these rallies, but those rallies never translated into votes. As far as organising big rallies is concerned, nobody can match the Shiv Sena.
If there is a rally in Pune, every shakha pramukh from Mumbai will take people to the rally. Fifty per cent of the crowd is like this and 50 per cent local. Next week if there is a rally in Sangli, the same people will be there too.
You can use the same tactics...
I know these tactics because I devised them.
So, why not use them...
We don't want to. As I told you, those tactics failed to bring votes to the Sena for 30 years. Only after the riots, only after the Sena joined hands with the BJP, they managed to win an assembly election in 1995.
Do you see power in the Shiv Sena gradually moving into Bal Thackeray's son Uddhav's hands? He has already been appointed working president of the party.
They will have to do it. What else can be done? Bal Thackeray underwent heart surgery some years back and is not keeping good health.
Do you think it will affect the Sena if Bal Thackeray is not leading it actively?
Nothing will happen as long as Bal Thackeray is there. God bless him with long life. May he live to be 100!
But after him, do you see a clash happening between the Thackerays and Sena leaders outside the family?
That [tension] is there even now.
You worked with former chief minister Vilas Deshmukh for over three years. In your view, what mistake cost him his job?
I am not the sort who will talk about these things in public. I was party to all the decisions made by the Deshmukh government. I may or may not have agreed with those decisions, but it was a collective decision.
When Sushilkumar Shinde took over from Deshmukh, there was some disquiet in government. The Maratha lobby was apparently upset they would get neither the chief minister nor the deputy chief minister's post.
Who was saying all these things?
These were mostly undercurrents, nobody says these things openly.
No, not the people at large. These narrow, parochial sentiments were articulated only by a handful of vested interests who wanted to put in place a chief minister who would do their bidding. They thought Chhagan Bhujbal would fall for these tricks and support them.
Shalinitai Patil [NCP politician and wife of the late Vasantrao Patil, four-time chief minister] said it openly...
Oh, Shalinitai Patil! [Smiles] She has been saying these things for I don't know how many years.