'We will do whatever is necessary when the day and moment arrives.'
'As a party which has ruled Maharashtra for most of its existence, we also have our base and turf to protect.'
Nana Patole is president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. In recent days, Patole -- a former Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Bhandara-Gondia who fell out with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi over farmers' issues -- has taken on the Nationalist Congress Party whom he has accused of supporting the BJP in Maharashtra.
The Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena are constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, a coalition which is in power in Maharashtra.
While some Sena, Congress and NCP leaders have vented their political differences in public glare, the war of words between Patole and the NCP intensified after the NCP helped the BJP get one of its members elected president of the Gondia zilla parishad .
"All three of us wanted to keep the BJP away from power, weaken its base and communal agenda in the state. But then the NCP is not minding the Lakshman Rekha right now," Patole tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com in an exclusive interview.
The Congress and NCP seem to attacking each other these days. The MVA bonhomie seems to have gone sour...
While the MVA is functioning smoothly, few leaders (in the NCP) are indulging in political skullduggery.
The Congress and its senior leadership was quite clear from the beginning that the Congress had entered into an alliance with the NCP and Shiv Sena to keep the BJP at bay in the state. All the three constituents mutually agreed to the common minimum programme (CMP) but this (helping the BJP win a zilla parishad election in Gondia) is not in the spirit of the MVA alliance.
We all know who tried to form an early morning government in Maharashtra and how Sharad Pawar's genius was tested in Maharashtra and the circumstances that followed bringing the three parties together.
All three of us wanted to keep the BJP away from power, weaken its base and communal agenda in the state. But then the NCP is not minding the Lakshman Rekha right now.
The NCP's actions are divergent from the spirit of the CMP.
To speak against such divergences is in the spirit of democracy. We can't keep shut for the fear of breaking the alliance. We will break the alliance when the time comes, but it is also important to speak against actions of alliance partners that are not in the right spirit.
If we don't object to such actions, then people will question our integrity and blame us for keeping quiet just because we are the junior-most partner in the alliance.
We have raised our objections and in the future you will see some positive action on how the alliance partners treat each other irrespective of their numerical strength. We will raise objections when we don't feel we are given equal treatment.
The NCP is saying that whatever they did was based on the ground realities at the local level. Now, the ball is in our court. We will do whatever is necessary to protect our turf and expand it.
Is the Congress readying itself to walk out of the MVA?
As of now, we are being quite humble and requesting them (the NCP) to keep such actions in check.
The NCP is justifying supporting the BJP for the election of president of the Gondia zilla parishad because they wanted to protect their turf at the local level.
We will do whatever is necessary when the day and moment arrives. As a party which has ruled Maharashtra for most of its existence, we also have our base and turf to protect.
There are reports of the Shiv Sena and NCP coming together to form an alliance for the election to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation.
Who should form an alliance with whom is the prerogative of individual political parties and we will not interfere with anybody forming an alliance with any political party. Individual political parties decide on how best to protect their political base and gain power.
Even the Congress has made plans to form alliances at local levels just like the NCP and we (Congress and NCP) have done that in the past too. But that was when the three MVA partners had not come together to keep the BJP out of power in Maharashtra. That changed the equation.
If the NCP and Shiv Sena want to come together, then that is their lookout. If they need our help to keep the BJP out of power in whichever way, then we will be ready to help them.
It looks like for the MVA it is the three-year itch that has surfaced and the three alliance partners are finding ways to get at each other. Aren't you giving the BJP a chance to enjoy the spectacle from the sidelines?
The three MVA partners will sort out our differences in appropriate fora. That doesn't mean any of us will not air our differences in the public.
Our fight is for the betterment and welfare for the people of Maharashtra. As of now, the BJP, at the Centre and in Maharashtra, are finding out ways to create trouble for the MVA alliance.
The Narendra Modi government is implementing one anti-people policy after another and hiding behind their vicious programmes of religious, caste and social divide to divert the attention of the people from the bread and butter issues of employment, poverty alleviation and inflation.
The Congress will fight these anti-people policies for the welfare of the people. The Congress did not become part of the MVA alliance for selfish or personal gains.
Are you likely to meet NCP President Sharad Pawar to sort out the differences between the Congress and NCP?
I will meet him if he calls me. If not, then the NCP will work for its best interests and the Congress will do the same. We are free to protect and fight our own battles.
Shouldn't the three MVA partners avoid bringing out such differences in the open? To counter your statement of the NCP backstabbing Congress, Ajit Pawar commented that they don't have to take such lessons from people who joined the Congress after spending time with the BJP.
Entire Maharashtra knows where I have come from. I like to fight and lead from the front. I don't believe in attacking someone from behind.
India knows our (Congress's) background. We have never engaged in backstabbing. We fight for the causes of people. There is no need for anybody to teach morals and ethics to us. Everybody knows who engaged in a failed attempt to form a government before sunrise.
Let them not speak about who we are and we too don't need to dig deep into their backgrounds.
I will soon be in Mumbai and I am sure we will all come together to discuss all the issues troubling the MVA alliance.
As MPCC president you were at the Congress' Chintan Shivir in Udaipur. What were the most important takeaways for you and the people of Maharashtra from the Shivir?
I discussed all the local and national issues with the senior leadership including the fireworks between the NCP and Congress.
The Congress is very clear that the MVA partners must stick to the CMP and all the creases among the alliance partners must be solved amicably.
We believe that the common goal of MVA partners is the welfare of the people and keeping the BJP away from implementing its communal agenda in the state.
At the national level it was decided that 50 per cent of all leadership roles should be handed over to the youth.
We have decided to aggressively expose how inflation, unemployment, poverty, housing issues for the poor has increased multifold during the eight-year rule of the Narendra Modi government.
The consistent rise in prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene, LPG and CNG after the UP assembly election is breaking the back the farming community, the middle class and more so of the poor who live below the poverty line.
The Modi government remains smug in its ivory tower. The Congress will launch nationwide agitations to explain the people of India how systematically they are sowing seeds of division using religion and caste only to slyly help out big industrialists close to the regime with their financial and divestment policies.
No minister in the Modi government or any senior BJP leader in India today has the guts to answer why inflation is spiraling, why the value of the rupee is tanking with each passing day, and the measures the government is taking to bring prices under control. They are simply hiding behind religious divide.
They will not talk about how China is weakening India's borders, how they are systematically undermining all the institutions and Constitution of India.
How are you going to create a narrative in Maharashtra that the Modi government is anti-people even as the state BJP leadership is busy raking up the issue of Aurangzeb's tomb in Aurangabad?
Let the BJP follow any divisive agenda that they want to follow. The central ideology of the Congress party is welfare of the people and we will continue to highlight how the Modi government is wrecking the nation's economy and social fabric.
The Congress has chalked out its own programmes to do so. Let them make use of whichever religion they want to create rifts in society. That is not the Congress's agenda.