Aaditya Thackeray interview: ‘Aarey not included in manifesto as it’s Mumbai issue, ongoing protest’

Vishwas Waghmode
Aaditya Thackeray at Thackeray's residence 'Matoshree' in Mumbai. (Express Photo By Pradip Das)

Shiv Sena leader and Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray is the first Thackeray to contest the polls. He talks to The Indian Express on breaking the family tradition of not contesting polls, the Aarey tree cutting issue, on an equal power-sharing formula with BJP and his plan of joining the government. Excerpts:

You are the first Thackeray to contest an election. Why did you break the Thackeray family tradition of not contesting the polls?

If you go by the surname, yes I'm breaking the tradition. Otherwise, any Sena candidate is contesting elections, we are equally involved. Because it's all family. So there is no breaking of tradition. But otherwise, of course, I always wanted to be a part of the legislative process for a long time. And I thought I can contribute more effectively through that. Hence I have taken the plunge.

Are you contesting the polls to qualify for leadership and succession in the party and to qualify for a government post if the saffron alliance is elected?

To be very honest, currently, my mind is set on getting as many candidates of Shiv Sena and Mahayuti (grand alliance) elected. Because, if you run right after positions from step one, I will not enjoy the process. I'm not even taking being elected for granted. I'm a candidate now. I will be facing voting day very soon. Then, hopefully, I will be elected. Then, whatever responsibility people will give me. Because, finally if you want to reach a certain destination, there is a road you have to follow. If you don't enjoy the process, you are going to trash it in the middle. I have seen so many people who run after posts with fixated dreams and they don't enjoy the process. The career there is not very long. I want to enjoy each step of this process.

"My aim is serving Maharashtra in the best possible way and getting maximum of candidates elected first," Aaditya Thackeray said. (Express Photo By Pradip Das)

You have been talking about making Worli as a model assembly constituency and have roped in experts for that. Is the plan for Worli ready and what does it include?

Worli has layers of development that it awaits. One is Worli which is calm, peaceful, green which doesn't need much change but a little upgrade of utilities that are there. Two, there are also BDD chawls and slums that are awaiting the redevelopment for a long time. That has to be effectively planned. A lot of open spaces and green spaces will open up in Worli in the next few years. That has to be planned. And there is Worli for residents and there is also a Worli that exists for so many thousands of people which is the floating population that comes into work every morning and leaves every evening. So, the experience of them coming to Worli has to be different. I have obviously gotten a couple of town planners who are helping me plan this. But, before I implement any policy or plan for Worli, each and every citizen of Worli will be heard by me. I have to have a dialogue with them. Without a dialogue, there can be no development.

There has been a rebellion in many assembly constituencies including Bandra (East). Do you think it will have a bearing on the election outcome of Sena candidates?

Not at all. Whoever the Sena candidates who work for Sena and people genuinely, the people know about them and they will vote for them. It is very natural to have a rebellion where you have parties in which people work hard. Because these people have put in everything for the party and for the constituency. And that moment of giving out a ticket is toughest for the party because everybody you know has been loyal to the party. And you have to choose one out of five and give that person an opportunity. So sometimes you have to rotate opportunities and somewhere, somebody obviously gets hurt in the process and gets upset. This is part of the whole process.

When the tree cutting in Aarey was happening, many activists and Sena leaders had come on the streets to protest. You have been very vocal on the issue. Why did you not join the protest?

The reason I didn't join the protest is already three thousand police personnel were posted there. During election time, there is so much stress on police personnel. And for me to go and do political drama, I don't think it's the right thing to do. But, having said that, a lot of our people initially stopped more tree cutting as was happening and then they were removed out of there. Our leaders Shubha Raul, Sheetal Mhatre, Priyanka Chaturvedi and a lot of our Yuva sainiks were detained. A lot of them were not even allowed to go close to the site. And if you see, the whole area was cordoned off in such a way that something big happening. Then, during elections, to put so much stress on police and law and order would not be the fairest thing to do.

“Something that is sub-judice or something that is an on-ground movement cannot be a part of the manifesto,” Aaditya Thackeray said when asked about Aarey protests missing from Sena’s manifesto (Express Photo By Pradip Das)

You have also spoken about declaring Aarey as forest but it is not there in your manifesto. Also, you had talked about coming up with a separate manifesto for Mumbai or MMR region. What has happened to that?

So if you see, we really have got 13 or 14 days to campaign. We have released a manifesto which is all Maharashtra. In that, I haven't taken Aarey because of two reasons. Of course, it is a Mumbai issue and more than that it is an ongoing resistance movement. It is not an infrastructure project. In our manifesto, we have promises which are on social welfare or infrastructure projects. In that, there are a lot of environmental points also like solar energy, electric mobility and cleaning up rivers and beaches. Beyond that, a protest cannot be in a manifesto. A protest is an on-ground movement. A protest is a movement in the legislative, in BMC and courts also. So, something that is sub-judice or something that is an on-ground movement cannot be a part of the manifesto.

If you are saying a sub-judice issue cannot be a part of the manifesto, the Ram Mandir issue has also been sub-judice. And you also talked about...

But, there is a creation of a temple there. That is not just a protest.

But, will you ensure that Aarey is declared as a forest?

See, forest or no forest is a technical term which is at the whim of the government. If you look at all the necessary things for a forest to exist, everything is in Aarey. You have leopards. a lot of species. It is also a floodplain of Mithi, as said by NEERI. And if we don't believe NEERI, we should shut down institutions like NEERI. We are wasting money on that.

After adjusting the seat-sharing with BJP, what happens to the equal power-sharing formula? Does it still remain or Sena will make some adjustments in that as well?

Some people in the media have been asking me about why decline in number or increase in number. I think it only proves two things. One is our commitment to our shared values and goals about fulfilling our promises. Whatever it may take, we will be fulfilling our promises. For example, (Article) 370 has been fulfilled. Ram Mandir will be fulfilled very soon. The promises of farmers are ongoing. Urban development is ongoing. Two, it also shows loyalty as a friend to support the friend to get stronger. Because we want a stable government. On equal power-sharing, I think it is best left to the people who decide it. Chief Minister, Amit Shah ji and Uddhav ji. They know what is best for both the parties and for us to serve the state better. So I'm too small a person to say anything on that.

Worli has layers of development that it awaits, Aaditya Thackeray said. (Express Photo By Pradip Das)

Will you join the government immediately after the formation of the new government?

My aim is not just about government. It's not about joining a particular ministry or post. My aim is serving Maharashtra in the best possible way and getting maximum of candidates elected first. Once that happens, then again I think both the parties can take a joint call. But, my first aim is to win and make everyone else win.

BJP chief Amit Shah recently said that BJP will have a Chief Minister in Maharashtra and a call on offering Deputy Chief Minister to Sena will be taken by Devendra Fadnavis and his team. So, will you take the post of Deputy Chief Minister?

This is all depending upon ifs and buts. All this can only be decided once the yuti wins, how we win, how many numbers we have. So, it all depends on ifs and buts. There is no point going into ifs and buts.