Supriya Sule: Modi has been tried, tested and has been found wanting

Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule is sure of the Congress-NCP alliance registering a victory in Maharashtra, in both the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections

Supriya Sule: Modi has been tried, tested and has been found wanting

Ashlin Mathew

Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule is sure of the Congress-NCP alliance registering a victory in Maharashtra, in both the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. “PM Modi is a spent force and they do not have anything else to offer. He has not been able to deliver any of the thing he promised. Unemployment is at an all-time high, agrarian crisis at its worst. The MSP to farmers has not been given,” highlights Sule in an interview with Ashlin Mathew

Let’s begin with what has just happened... Do you think Narendra Modi has damaged the BJP’s position in
West Bengal?

It is unfortunate what has happened in West Bengal. People in power today are hostile to the Opposition.In a vibrant democracy that we are proud of, it is for the first time that such antagonism is being seen. We have had a legacy of leaders who have been complimentary and encouraging of those in the Opposition. I don’t think he did the right thing.

Do you think PM Modi is culpable in the Rafale deal?

He never leads from the front. It’s always a one-way communication. It is always that he is speaking to people,without any questions being answered. For a man who claims to be extremely communicative, and that was also his TRP before he became the Prime Minister,it is truly disappointing and sad that he refuses to speak on the Rafale deal in debates and open forums.

Clearly, there is a grey area. I can’t see them coming to the front and clearing doubts. They are hiding. What is there to hide? If there was nothing to hide, then they should come out clean. If you have nothing to hide, then come lead from the front.

Now that the elections are around the corner,what are the prospects of the Congress-NCP combine? How many seats do you expect to win in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections?

We will, definitely, do well this time around. Last time, there were dark clouds around the alliance. There was hostile behaviour towards each other. The cadre were unhappy. There was a lot of infighting. There is a world of difference this time around.

So, after 15 years of being in power, there was nothing that seemed right. Everything was right, but nothing was right either. It was a difficult time. The media was hostile towards us and people seemed angry. That has clearly changed. I can’t say how many seats we would win, but we would definitely come out successful. We will definitely do well in both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP government in Maharashtra has been plagued by agrarian distress, drought, Maratha reservation protests, a march by tribals among other issues. Despite these concerns, there are several political pundits who claim that CM Devendra Fadnavis has proven his mettle. Is it so?

Just because a person has won an election doesn’t mean that he will or is doing well. It’s not about certain people winning elections. It is about ensuring the satisfaction of citizens.Are people happy, is the question. Today, Maharashtra has been witnessing one of the worst agrarian crises, and a spate of farmer suicides. In the state,investments are not doing so well. The whole alliance of their’s has been bickering, so do they even have time for people? The politicians are not even concerned about the welfare of the citizens. The ruling combine is on a sticky wicket for sure…

There have been speculations that the Assembly election in Maharashtra is likely to be held alongside the LS polls to ride on Modi’s image. Do you think this will affect the winnability of the Congress-NCP combine?

Besides PM Modi, they do not have anything else to offer. So, what can they do? There is anti-incumbency against them in the state. The agrarian crisis destroyed several families and affected local markets in a big way. The Modi’s government’s budget, or even the one to be presented by the Fadnavis government will not work.

We also presented the budget. Budgets don’t necessarily work and convert into votes. Please don’t underestimate the voters of this country and their intelligence. They know that all these budgets don’t even mention the agrarian crisis. At last, suddenly they realised about farmers are offering them Rs 17 per day. This is not going to affect the winnability of the Congress-NCP combine.

Do you think the Modi factor will work this time?

Of course, not. In 2014, he claimed he had a clean slate. Now, he has been tried, tested and has been found wanting. And, he has not been able to deliver on any of the things he has promised. Unemployment is at an all-time high. The agrarian crisis at its worst. The MSP has not been given and they keep saying they will increase the MSP, but that hasn’t happened. The Maharashtra government has sent a study of how much the MSP must be, and what was approved was not even half of what the state asked.

Then, there were the commitments of Rs 15 lakh in everyone’s account, two crore jobs. Nothing has happened. This year, he is talking about one crore jobs. This is clearly a jumla sarkar. People will see through them. Never underestimate the voters’intelligence. They see and understand a lot more than you think.

I would not want to rate him, but he has definitely disappointed everyone, including myself. He has clearly failed on the education front, healthcare, infrastructure and Demonetisation.

Demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) have completely ruined the backbone of the country. Initially, when it came, some of us thought that it was the right decision. But, Dr Manmohan Singh was the first person to explain why it was not and he was right. What have they achieved? No black money has come back,instead diamantaire Nirav Modi has taken crores and run away. How did
that happen?

Even their Mudra loans are almost pointless. Which business can start with a mere capital of Rs 50,000? And the amount of Mudra loans given by state-owned banks that turned into NPAs rose to Rs 7,277.31 crore in 2017-18. Then, there are NPAs of Rs 4 lakh crore from banks. So, who is going to be responsible for this?

It is several generations’ work that has gone into the country. It is demeaning to say that nothing has happened before 2014. They seem to want to say that we got Independence five years ago.

The GST was first put forward by our government and they have implemented it so badly.

Your challenge is mainly from the ShivSena-BJP combine. They are strong in Maharashtra. How do you plan to fight against them?

We should go by the numbers and data of what we have done in government and what they have. The governance during our alliance was much better. Maharashtra has accounted for the highest number of farmers’ suicides under the BJP government. When we were in power,infant mortality rate dropped. There was a significant reduction in poverty by almost 20 per cent. There was a per capita increase in income by almost 10 percent.

These are two allies which have fought and are fighting bitterly. It’s nothing but filth, if you askme. It’s extremely sad that they are more than concerned about their own well-being than they are about the citizens of the state. When does the administration work if you are fighting so much? We also had differences with the Congress, but it wasn’t even one-tenth of what they are having. The allegations of corruption against several ministers are nasty. As a result, mystate suffers.

Our strategy is development and nothing else. Development in terms of what matters to people -education, health and better MSP for farmers. Have they started any new schools or colleges?

The agrarian crisis under our government was not even half as bad as it stands today. Even if one farmer dies, it reflects badly on the state machinery. I will not take away from the fact that probably there was something more we could have also done. I would never say that just because we were in power. A death is a death. It’s not about data, its about somebody’s life. Let’s not be so insensitive and this government is clearly insensitive.

There are several examples I could cite to highlight their insensitivity. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis never talks when there is a crisis. When girls are molested, he is silent. When one of their MLAs, Ram Kadam, stated that they will kidnap girls,the CM kept mum. It was such a shame. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter which party it is. We all have to rise to the occasion and be above politics. It’s not only about winning elections, it’s about administration and I see them as a complete failure in administration.

Despite public differences, it is believed that the BJP and Sena will eventually join hands. Why do you think they fight and yet come back together?

That is what it is. It is quite sad. They simply use people for negotiations. Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut came for Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu’s dharna and he said he had come to deliver Sena chief Uddhav
Thackeray’s message.

That administration does not really have differences on some issues. If they both felt that they were such bad allies, then they would have gone their separate ways. As a result of their bickering, the administration in the state is suffering. They always come back together for power.

Don’t most alliances come together for power?

No, I would disagree. All alliances don’t come together for power. Sometimes, it is about fighting for the right cause. Today, several of us came together to condemn the attack against Amol Palekar ji, who was asked to keep quiet at a function. What is wrong in commenting on something? It is about freedom of speech. If we say we are a vibrant democracy, why would we throttle speech? I can say whatever I want. If you object, there are several ways to say that too.  It has never happened in Maharashtra before.It has been an extremely progressive state in matters like these.

How well do you think the mahagathbandhan politics will work on the national front?

Yes, why not? PV Narasimha Rao was one of the prime ministers who changed the destiny of this country through an alliance. Nobody is going to disagree on healthcare, education and other basic necessities required to better the lives of the people of our country.

What are your political plans for the future? Do you hope to focus on Maharashtra politics or national politics?

I am hoping to get re-elected from Baramati. It is a high-performing constituency and malnutrition has been eradicated. I am always going to contest in Lok Sabha elections. We have a great team in Maharashtra.

Do you think the political class needs to change their behaviour and conduct, as this is damaging public interest?

Every basket has bad apples. I think people will change and I believe, thanks to the advent of social media, a lot of change is happening. Everything is on camera now and they will get exposed.

What upsets people are when we have a disregard for rules, break lines at airports or when we have a lot of security around us. So, why should only a chunk get more? Security for a few people, such as the PM, is understandable, but it should be at the cost of the common man. Every life is important, not just that of political leaders. So, why can’t we have an environment that is safe to all.

There must be politics of honesty, of transparency and fair game. No muscle power, money or bullying must be involved.

What do you think needs to change about political financing?

I think political financing must be transparent and fair. Ideally, there must be zero cost to fighting an election. I’ll be the happiest person when that happens. Work hard, perform in Parliament and people should elect you based on this. We have to change the system of financing and voter should also start saying ‘No’ to the money being offered in lieu of votes. We have to catch such corruption, expose such people. Let it be a clean and fair elections.

In case of the electoral bonds, the ruling party should ensure everyone gets a chance to raise money. Look at what is happening in Karnataka. The BJP is offering money to MLAs to switch parties. Shame on them. If this is what it is, what is the use of bonds?

They enforced Demonetisation and lot of money reached banks. Where is all this money coming from? BJP must answer this. They have all the money power and muscle power…

If you are in the BJP, you are clean; if you are not, then there will be cases slapped against you and you are corrupt. Several people in the alliances went to the BJP and all their files have been shut. So, they are clearly using some detergent and making you clean. Otherwise, you are a ‘chor’. Mukul Roy from West Bengal is a classic example.

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Published: 15 Feb 2019, 9:00 AM