State Minister for Rural Development and Women and Child Welfare Pankaja Munde has been controversys favourite child for most part of the BJP governments tenure. In a no-holds-barred interview to The Hindu at her residence in Parli where she is a BJP candidate against her cousin and arch-rival Dhananjay Munde she clears the air on numerous allegations of corruption and why nationalism may be as big an issue as drought and water scarcity in the Assembly elections.
There is drought and water shortage in your constituency. Yet Union Home Minister Amit Shah made scrapping of Article 370 a poll plank at the Dussehra rally here.
Sure there is drought in these parts but still India being made one country (after Article 370) is an integral part of our tradition, of which nationalism is also a uniting thread. When Mr. Modi got a huge reception at the Howdy Modi event, it was a reflection of peoples view towards this (Article 370). Basically, this rally happens every year and this year, the people were enthusiastic as Mr. Amit Bhai Shah was visiting. Because he came, it was our gesture to show we were proud of his decision to scrap Article 370.
So can we officially say this is an electoral plank of the BJP?
No, no, of course not. It is an issue we are very proud of and waiting for decades. There was pain in the hearts of people about the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, and we wanted to appreciate the decision he (Mr. Shah) took, during this rally. And so the topic came up but that was not the only topic he spoke about. If you heard him well, he also spoke about OBC Commission our party has created, deprived sector, and sugar cane farmers among others. But removal of Article 370 garnered attention since people are fond of it. They did not come to listen to an ordinary politician; he is a national leader and would not separate local from national issues.
You are the sitting MLA and the Guardian Minister of this region but yet the condition of the roads remain poor?
The condition of road overall in the district is good, but unfortunately not in my constituency as there are ongoing works. We have brought 10,000 crore worth of national highway work in the region but some work is ongoing resulting in disturbance. There are other impediments created in the road works to ensure they are delayed in my constituency.
Is there a general sentiment here that major projects are being moved at the cost of Marathwada to Vidarbha, home to senior BJP leadership?
There will be that kind of feeling because all the leadership is concentrated on Nagpur. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari are from Nagpur. So people can feel that way (projects moving to Vidarbha at the cost of Marathwada). There must be a sentiment to that extent, I am not denying.
There have been allegations of corruption against you including the tendering of the take home ration schemes and the story The Hindu had written about your proximity to road contractors?
Oh, I did not know it was you who wrote the story but I feel even though I am not angry about it, it is my right to take legal action when I feel something is not right. And you did write about my husband which was not true and I have noticed people have written about that because there is a news value. Otherwise, there were not many allegations but the ones raised by my cousin (Dhananjay) to attack me and he has been attacking every decision of mine. But now media does not take him seriously and they know the allegations are personal in nature.
But he (Dhananjay) claims your politics is not of development but only with an objective to finish his career?
I have never had time to think about finishing his career. I have never reacted but only defended allegations he made against me. That is not my issue what he thinks of me. I have faced all the allegations.
There was sloganeering and demands in a local rally here that you be made the CM. Is that your aspiration as well?
I have never had that ambition but one of our BJP leaders had only said that she could be the first woman CM of the State. After that that has somehow got stuck with me. I have worked with the CM for the betterment of the people. But somehow I feel if my father was alive today he would have become the CM. This has also been stamped by Amit Shahji and Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi). So of course people have the feeling where he (Gopinath Munde) could not reach, she should. But that will come with merit if I deserve it. Right now I am clear where I stand.
What are the works you have done for your constituency?
I have completed 1,200 (number) roads in my district under the Mukhyamantri Gram Sadak Yojna and I can take you around to show you the work we have done. I have worked on women self-help groups and taken their numbers from 4 lakh to 44 lakh. When I joined my department there was no panchayat samiti offices; I have constructed primary health care and vet hospitals along with samiti offices. There was so much pendency because of 15 years of misrule under the previous governments.