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March 31, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/Bal Thackeray

'Sanyas is going to be my path of the future. I want to keep aloof from all the dirty things going on'

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Bal Thackeray What has gone wrong between the guru and his acolyte? Why is Sena boss Bal Thackeray so upset with Chief Minister Manohar Joshi? Why does he want to go on political sanyas at a point of time when he should be actually celebrating the installation of a BJP government at the Centre, in which the Shiv Sena is an alliance partner?

Thackeray defends his ire as a fierce storm brews over Mantralaya in the wake of the recent electoral verdict in Maharashtra, in an interview with Pritish Nandy.

You have never been a sanyasi. Why do you suddenly want to take sanyas from politics? What is bugging you?

Saying is one thing. Doing is another. Sanyas is going to be my path of the future. I want to keep aloof from all the dirty things that are going on. The experience is very bad. Even my boys -- some of the branch chiefs and zilla pramukhs -- have forgotten that they are part of the Shiv Sena. Their behaviour has become rude and unbearable. I don't like this because my real capital is not money, it is my Shiva Sainiks. As long as they are with me and prepared to face every storm, I am not worried about anything.

Is this the reason why the Sena fared so poorly in the recent Lok Sabha election?

Workers think that every time I hold a mammoth meeting their job is over. They see the huge crowds and feel confident that they will win with a thumping majority. So they become lethargic. It is this lethargy and over-confidence that was responsible for our failure.

Not internal sabotage, as rumoured?

Dekhiye Pritish, there are bound to be little things here and there. As far as my organisation is concerned, there is no such sabotage. There are only little revenges but they are not against the Shiv Sena. They are personal affairs. They do not do it as Shiv Sainiks. But, yes, they have their personal stakes and personal enmities. This comes in the way.

But why is there so much of internal bickering, particularly in the wake of the recent electoral verdict? Why are so many local Sainik leaders being killed off?

The newspapers say they are out to take revenge.

Who are they?

Arun Gawli The Gawli gang. The Congress government was responsible for putting Gawli behind bars for six years or more. He wanted protection. Gopinath Munde came to me. My MP Mohan Rawle was also there. I told him: Since Gopinath is here, you ask him. Rawle asked for protection for Gawli. Munde said: How can I give protection to Gawli? If we start giving protection to one criminal, every other criminal will ask for the same thing. This is impossible to do. It will look very awkward to have a gangster going in a car with a police escort behind him. It is idiotic.

After that, he began to treat us as enemies. Today he has taken an oath that whoever it may be, big or small, must be finished. That is why you have these murders. He is after everyone in my organisation.

Do you think there is a general sense of disillusionment with the Shiv Sena government?

No. Everything we want to do goes to the courts and the court has already passed strictures against the police department. The police commissioner was actually even fined once. Also the chief secretary. This demoralised the police people. They know they can be killed by these gangsters at any time.

Don't you think Bombay deserves better law and order?

What is wrong with our law and order?

There are too many shootouts, gangster killings, threats, extortions?

The police are in no mood to do anything daring. Why should they? If everything ends up in a court of law and if they are going to be punished, why should they move a muscle? If we take brave steps, we are hanged in the courts. That is why there is so much of demoralisation.

With the BJP at the Centre, do you think Maharashtra's and Bombay's fortunes can again be on the upswing?

Frankly, we did not get a bad deal when Gujral was there. But some of the other ministers were playing mischief and politics. However, now that the BJP government is there, we are expecting a soft corner. We are hoping to get some more funds for the welfare of the state.

What about the tumultuous assembly session that took place recently, when so many charges of corruption tumbled out of the cupboard? Charges of corruption against your government.

You mean to say that there are a lot of skeletons in our cupboard?

Well, that is what the Opposition is saying.

This is all their children! Today, because we are in power, their children are sitting on our lap. This is the case with the rent act. We have inherited the problems they have created.

As regards the other charges -- against Manohar Joshi in particular -- he has explained them. The (controversial) decisions are not his. They were taken ten years back and our government has just come to power. The schools controversy was also explained by him in a press conference in Mantralaya.

You mean Shantilal Maru and Raj Dadarkar have no links with your ministers?

It is difficult for me to answer this question because I have not seen Maru or Raj Dadarkar. Many reports, however, have reached me. But the chief minister has cleared his position on the subject.

As the boss of the party, are you satisfied with the explanation?

Confidence is one thing. But unless I have specific proof of corruption or direct involvement in the sale of school land, how can I take action against him? The allegations of the Opposition are not entirely substantiated by evidence.

You have always stood apart from your government and taken positions that are independent. What is your independent view on these charges? True? False?

When I take such positions, you criticise me. When I don't, you also criticise me. So it is for me to decide which position I should take. I will not take (any decision) under pressure. Today, I am going to keep a close watch on what is going on. I am also going to do some spring cleaning as far as my party is concerned.

Yes, I will keep a close watch on my government's every move. If need be, I will warn them. I will not allow them to do anything they want. No.

Are you personally satisfied with the amount of work done by your government?

When we had a leaders meeting recently, I had a very open discussion with all of them. Including Manohar Joshi and other ministers. It is not a rosy picture. But, at the same time, you cannot expect results in three years. But by the year 2000, you will find a definite change in Maharashtra, particularly in the city of Bombay. There will be fifty flyovers. So many new projects are coming up. We have given them all deadlines to meet.

You are confident your government can ensure these deadlines?

They have to. I will not simply sit back and allow them to do what they want. I am going to keep a watch. I will be the watchdog. I will not simply say, OK, do some good. I will watch and ensure that they do some good for the people. For the poor. I discuss rations. I discuss kerosene. I discuss housing.

Then why has your slum rehabilitation project faltered?

It is only political propaganda. Talk to Sureshdada Jain. He will tell you how much we are progressing. We have already started the transit camps. We will remove people from zopadpattis there and immediately start construction. Then, the next project will begin. People will move. New structures will come up. Some vested interests are, of course, going to the courts and putting stay orders and injunctions. That is what is delaying our progress. But we will not give lame excuses. We will make things actually happen. That is why I am here.

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