Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has been on a campaign spree for almost a year. After a shock defeat in the Lok Sabha elections from home turf Nanded, Chavan is on the campaign trail once again — this time in a bid to return to the Maharashtra Assembly. Chavan tells Sagar Kulkarni of DH that he sees the Modi wave receding and that there are some positive trends for the Congress in the state elections. Excerpts from the interview:
How is the campaign progressing?
I am seeing a positive trend. The elections are no longer a one-sided contest. I am getting reports from across the state. There are more rebels in BJP and Shiv Sena than the Congress. At several places, the BJP is strengthening Independent candidates at the cost of Shiv Sena. BJP’s agenda is very clear, they will not hesitate in ensuring the defeat of Sena nominees.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar has emerged as the Opposition face in the campaign?
Pawar being a tall leader gets more coverage in the media and that leads to a certain perception. Rahul Gandhi campaigned, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Shatrughan Sinha have come to Nanded. Maharashtra is a vast state and shortage of resources is also a factor.
But BJP and Sena also see Pawar as the main opponent and not any Congress leader?
Threatening or targeting Opposition leaders has been a part of the BJP campaign. Pawar was targeted by the Enforcement Directorate, now Praful Patel has received summons. Every Opposition leader is on target.
Is there a Modi wave still?
I don’t see. There was some such thing during the Lok Sabha elections, but now it doesn’t exist.
National issues such as Article 370 and Jammu and Kashmir are dominant in this election?
How relevant is Article 370 here. Is this an election to the J&K Assembly? In Nanded and Marathwada, the issue is of Article 371 (2) that deals with clearing the development backlog of this region. Congress keeps raising these issues in the campaign. In Maharashtra, suicides by farmers, growing unemployment due to recession is an issue.
BJP has promised five crore jobs in five years in its manifesto?
They promised 10 crore jobs during the last elections, those never saw the light of the day. The BJP has made tall promises, but delivered zero.
Is Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi of Prakash Ambedkar a factor in this election. They dented your poll prospects in Lok Sabha.
VBA is not a factor in this election. The SC voters have realised that they had erred in Lok Sabha. The are coming back to support the Congress.
Ex-home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Congress is tired. Does this affect polls?
That is his personal opinion. The younger generation is in a mood to fight.
What are the prospects of Congress-NCP alliance in the elections?
We will improve our numbers, that is all I will say. We are moving towards positive side.