Congress-NCP will win maximum seats in Maharashtra, says Harshvardhan Patil

Parthasarathi Biswas
Former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan and Harshvardhan Patil at Sayadhari guest house, Malhabhar hill. (Express photo by Kevin DSouza)

Expressing confidence that the Congress-NCP alliance will bag an absolute win in the state in the Lok Sabha elections, senior Congress leader Harshavardhan Patil tells Partha Sarathi Biswas that a strong anti-BJP undercurrent was evident in the rural areas, which will cost the ruling alliance the most. Excerpts:

As we enter the last phase of voting in Maharashtra, how do you gauge the mood of the voter? Is there a Modi wave or an anti-incumbency factor?
Across Maharashtra there is a strong undercurrent of anger among the voters. There are multiple reasons for that, the failure of the government to fulfill the promises made in 2014 being one of the main. Also, there is a complete failure in governance and administration. (Public) works are not getting done. In fact, the momentum of work is missing in the state. All decisions, including introducing Goods and Services Tax and demonetisation, will also affect the government negatively.

The government had promised farmers a minimum support price of 1.5 times the production price. Leave alone 1.5 times, farmers have not realised the MSP since years together. Also, the disbursal of crop loan has gone down, which signals of rural distress. In short, yearly income in rural areas have gone down under this government.

Is this undercurrent absent from urban areas?
Rural people are more expressive about their views than urban voters. Most of them are scared of repercussions. For example, in Gujarat, lakhs of traders had taken to the streets in Surat to protest against the GST, but the government ensured all their protests are squashed. In the elections, all the seats went to BJP just by use of force. However, in urban areas, inflation and joblessness is an issue. The government has failed all segments of the society, be it Muslims, Dhangars, Maratha, or others. All their talk about reservations have backfired. The Prime Minister and the Chief Minister are giving conflicting statements about SC/ST and Dhangar reservations. All these games will not work on the people.

There is a perception that Congress was under-prepared for the elections. There were large-scale defections among key leaders. Compared to this the NCP looked better prepared. Is this true?
The Congress was well prepared to start with, but some glitches appeared, which should not have happened. There was some confusion about candidates, but we need to realise that our candidates are elected by the high command. However, I would like to point that all the glitches have been worked out and we are working as a team.

If the Congress was not prepared, would it have been able to put up such a good fight in Nagpur? Also (party's candidate from Mumbai North Lok Sabha seat) Urmila Matondkar, is running an extremely efficient campaign in her constituency. Both these constituencies had seen leads of over four lakhs.

If our cadre was not motivated, such a fight would not have happened. What I have observed is that there is an undercurrent among the voters. That is very dangerous as it’s easy to overlook. But the voting will show it.

How many seats will your alliance win?
I would not like to predict a number, but I am confident that we will win the maximum number of seats in the state.