The otherwise peaceful Saat Rasta area of Solapur is crowded even at 11:30 pm. Around 400 people are waiting to meet Sushilkumar Shinde, who has returned to his home ‘Jan Vatsalya’ after daylong hectic campaigning in scorching heat.
He talks to India Today on why he is confident of winning his last election in a triangular fight in the constituency reserved for the Scheduled Caste.
Q. There is a lot of curiosity about your election after Prakash Ambedkar joined the fray making it a triangular fight. How do you look at it?
A. I have been contesting election from Solapur since 1978. I have been following a principle of equality towards all religions. Prakash Ambedkar has an alliance with communal AIMIM. On the other hand, BJP candidate (Jaisiddheshwar Swami) is a religious leader. I am secular, in between the communal and religious candidates.
Q. There is a talk that BJP roped in Prakash Ambedkar to play a spoiler. What are your comments?
A. Ambedkar is a vote eater. I don’t know why he is in Solapur. I am fighting to keep the Constitution written by his great grandfather. People are saying BJP has roped him in.
Q. You lost the last election to a newcomer because of Narendra Modi wave. Are you still worried about the Modi wave?
A. The 2014 election result was an accident. Yes, there was a wave. It has gone now. The BJP has lost confidence. They have not fulfilled their promises.
Q. The BJP has been insisting that they are the best caretakers of national security. What are your views as a former Union home minister?
A. Where is the national security? They did not handle the Kashmir issue well. Every day two to three soldiers are being killed. I had gone to Srinagar’s Lal Chowk and made some purchases. The shop keepers had told me that their business was good because tourism was good. The situation is not the same today. They (government) have no courage to go to Lal Chowk. They are only issuing statements after statements. You must have a dialogue with the people of Kashmir.
Q. The government claims that Naxalism is under control. Yesterday only five people were killed in a Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh. Do you agree with the government?
A. Naxalism in Telangana was controlled long before the Congress was in power in the Centre. I know this because I was the Governor of Andhra Pradesh at that time. How many times the government will make the excuse of security lapses when our soldiers are being killed? Give best of services and remove poverty (in the Naxal infested areas). The development process has to continue. This (Naxalism) is a chronic disease.
Q. The BJP says its Ujala scheme is a game changer as every household in the country has an electricity connection now. You were Union Power Minister for six and a half years. How do you look at this achievement?
A. Electricity has not yet reached to every household. We had electrified 18,000 villages. We had launched four power projects of 4,000 MW each because there was a power shortage. They were initiated on bidding competition with an agreement that the electricity rate would be Rs 1.19 per unit. They (BJP government) scrapped the scheme. They are in a habit of giving huge figures and big promises.
Q. Are you saying BJP has not done anything concrete?
A. It is obvious. They interfered in every institution. Four judges of the Supreme Court came out openly saying there was interference. What does it mean? That was the same case with the appointments in RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation). It is a perverted form of democracy.
Q. The BJP has claimed that it will win more seats this time than the last election in Maharashtra. Your comment?
A. The BJP will lose miserably. Congress-NCP will gain. The BJP does not have candidates. They are poaching leaders from Congress and NCP.
Q. Are you looking at a bigger role in Delhi after this election?
A. My people say a good person was defeated in the last election. They say they want revenge. There were four surveys and the same result came out. I am not looking at a bigger role. Let us work for the people’s desire.