In the last five years, BJP leader Chandrakant Patil has risen to the top echelon of Maharashtra politics. The revenue minister has won the confidence of the party high command, as reflected in his appointment as the state BJP chief in July this year. In an interview with Ajay Jadhav, Patil addresses the discontent in certain sections of the party and its alliance partners, and explains why he is contesting his first-ever Assembly elections from Kothrud seat in Pune.
There is dissent within the Mahayuti led by the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. Smaller alliance partners are accusing the BJP of cheating them at a time when the election campaign is at its peak.
It is natural to complain about not getting seats for elections, whether it’s within a party or an alliance. However, a crucial skill is to bring the situation back to normal later by explaining the background for such decisions. I will meet the alliance partners in the next two days. If we have to bring our government to power, then we can’t take any risks. We have experimented earlier by contesting elections on separate symbols of alliance partners. It has been seen that the public likes the BJP’s lotus symbol.
The demand for a separate Vidarbha state has been getting stronger. The BJP-led government didn’t take any decision on the long-pending demand in its five-year rule. What is your stand on this demand?
Vidarbha region was lagging behind in development and we have carried out development works on a priority basis in the last five years. Priority was given to Vidarbha in the last five years as it was severely underdeveloped. We provided subsidies in power bills for industries in Vidarbha and completed water projects. Now, a decision on whether there will be a separate state will be taken after talking to everyone. It will be decided as per the wishes of the public.
Is it possible for a leader from Pune to reach the chief minister’s post in the next five years?
Personally, I don’t have any political ambitions. I had contested the state Legislative Council elections, which the party had lost. I managed to win and the party leaders said that I could achieve anything. I don’t wish to become the chief minister.
The current chief minister is a visionary, he has carried out proper development of the state. Given the achievements of the chief minister, I wish that he remains in that post for the next five years. Also, unlike some other political parties, there has never been a situation in the BJP when the chief minister has been opposed or replaced in six months. There has been no fight in the cabinet meetings or in the party, and every government decision was taken unanimously.
The BJP had undertaken a survey before choosing candidates for the Assembly elections. Was the decision to drop ministers like Vinod Tawde and Chandrashekhar Bawankule, and senior leaders like Eknath Khadse, taken because of the outcome of the survey?
This decision was limited to the central leadership, and among two or three senior leaders of the party. It is our practise that leaders perform the duties they have been entrusted with... It is clear that the party believes that everyone should be given some responsibility. This is the reason state minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule has been made in-charge of assembly seats in the five districts in Vidarbha.
The BJP has been claiming that its candidates were chosen based on the results of the survey... Did the survey cover Kothrud seat in Pune and were you fielded as the candidate on the basis of the survey findings?
The survey covered Kothrud seat, just like all other Assembly seats. The decision on candidature was not taken by me... had I not been chosen as a candidate, the party would have either continued with the sitting legislator or someone who has worked hard in that constituency. The survey result was not negative. I had the option to contest from three seats but the party leadership decided my candidature... the decision was taken not only because the seat is safe, but also after considering future strategies. There has to be someone to push for the development of the city and to take on the Congress-NCP, which is limited to Pune in western Maharashtra.
I had sought an Assembly seat in Kolhapur district, but there were limitations due to the seat-sharing arrangement with the Shiv Sena. Pune was not my choice. The party leadership decided the seat and I accepted it. Also, there are limitations in the journey from Kolhapur to Mumbai (the headquarters of the state government), so it was decided that I needed to move out of Kolhapur.
Now that you are contesting from Pune, what are your plans for the city?
I am preparing a vision document on resolving the existing issues in the constituency. The growth of Kothrud has taken place at an extraordinary rapid pace but basic facilities are yet to be developed to keep up with the growth. There is a need to provide facilities to meet the social needs of senior citizens, resolve traffic issues, and regularise water and electricity supply in the area.
The state government has submitted an affidavit in the Bombay High Court, seeking to extend the boundaries of Pune Municipal Corporation. What is your opinion?
There needs to be some brainstorming on the issue as it will have a long-lasting impact ... it is accurate that the development of the city will not take place without increasing its size. Pune is growing at such a pace that its boundaries will soon merge with those of Mumbai... we should not fail to meet the criteria of developed cities of the world because of the city’s smaller size. There will be a strain on basic facilities... we need to meet the criteria to fit into the category of developed cities, so a solution has to be found through discussions.
Work on the Pune Metro project is in full swing. Will the project resolve the traffic issues of the city or is there a need to introduce other methods?
People are aware of the time wasted due to traffic jams. More people will start using the Metro service once they realise that the public transport system is more beneficial. There is a need to introduce more steps to resolve traffic issues, including the construction of a ring road that will allow us to put a check on vehicles entering the city... another idea is double-decker roads... these exist in foreign countries and we need to see whether they will be feasible for our cities.
This year, heavy rain led to overflowing of nullahs, which caused flash floods in Pune...
There are constructions close to nullahs and the existing buildings can’t be demolished, but new constructions shouldn’t be allowed on nullahs. The problems due to the existing buildings should be sorted out and we need to find further solutions for this issue...