‘Please do not threaten us with street violence.’
‘Do you have some humanity left in you?’

IMAGE: Deepak Kesarkar, second from left, with Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray at an event in Sindhudurg in 2018. Photograph: Deepak Kesarkar/Twitter

Deepak Kesarkar is the Shiv Sainik who took on Narayan Rane and helped establish the Shiv Sena’s sway over the Konkan.

The Shiv Sena MLA from Sawantwadi spoke at length with Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com about Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut’s threatening tweet, the pressure tactics employed against the Sena rebel MLAs, the repercussions it could have in Maharashtra, and if Eknath Shinde is in talks with the Bharatiya Janata Party to form the next government.

A Must Read Interview!

Are the rebel MLAs taking Uddhav Thackeray’s offer to resign as chief minister seriously and let Eknath Shinde replace him?

How can we (Eknath Shinde) get the post of chief minister if we don’t want the support of the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) and Congress? The Shiv Sena doesn’t have enough strength to form a government on its own.

Do you feel Uddhav Thackeray will quit the Maha Vikas Aghadi and join hands with the BJP to form a government?

I have humbly prayed at Sai Baba’s feet that he quit the MVA. I visited the Sai Baba temple in Guwahati yesterday (Thursday, June 23, 2022). Come what may, I never miss Sai Baba’s darshan on a Thursday.

People of Maharashtra elected us under the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.

There are reports of the Eknath Shinde camp getting the support of 50 MLAs. What is your current strength right now?

There are 37 of us here who were elected under the Dhanushya Baan (the Bow And Arrow, the Shiv Sena’s election symbol). So, that is above the minimum two-thirds number required to save us from the clauses of the anti-defection law.

Shindeji has already submitted a letter of support of these MLAs to the deputy speaker (of the Maharashtra assembly, Narhari Zirwal).

The others include Independents and MLAs of smaller parties.

Is the Eknath Shinde camp moving towards joining hands with the BJP to form the next government in Maharashtra?

This will be decided by Shinde saheb.

All the MLAs present here have given him sweeping rights to do whatever he thinks is right for the people of Maharashtra without compromising on Balasaheb (Thackeray)’s Hindutva ideology.

Whatever he decides is final.

Has Eknath Shinde started negotiations with the BJP over formation of the next government? BJP leader Chandrakant Patil has said there has been no such proposal yet from the Shinde camp.

Maharashtra is left with only two options now. One is the MVA as it exists today or (the Shinde camp) going with the BJP. We have come together on the common agenda that we don’t want to stay with the NCP and Congress.

We have been consistently asking Uddhav saheb to join hands and compromise with the BJP. I have been asking him for it since the last 18 months. But the problem is he has not been able to make up his mind on it yet. We hope he makes up his mind soon.

But has the Shinde camp sent overtures to the BJP?

We don’t know anything about it. We have asked Shinde saheb to do whatever is necessary.

So, there is absolute trust in what Eknath Shinde decides for the rebel MLAs?

Yes. We have all given him absolute, over-riding powers to be our leader and do whatever is best for all of us.

Sanjay Raut has dared the Shinde camp to come to Mumbai and prove you have the support of two-thirds of Shiv Sena MLAs. He has also claimed that the MVA will win the fight on the floor of the House (assembly).
When are you coming to Mumbai? Will you be able to prove Sanjay Raut wrong?

We will 100 per cent prove our strength on the floor of the House. But the style in which they are daring us to come to Mumbai, ask them first to change that style (threaten us).

Do you know why I came here (to Guwahati)? Wasn’t I in Mumbai? I was free to take any decision so I stayed back in Mumbai. But then later hundreds of people (Shiv Sainiks) gherao

Who gave you such rights? Our Constitution has given us the inviolable right of freedom to movement. I will fight against such high-handedness. Do you (to Raut) really think we will tolerate this after a point?

Did anybody else give the fight which I gave in Konkan (against Narayan Rane when he was in the Congress after quitting Shiv Sena)? I could do it because I had the moral strength to carry forward Balasaheb’s principles. But now they are targeting my family too.

My wife is undergoing treatment for mental trauma and in this condition you (those in the Shiv Sena supporting Uddhav Thackeray) are sending people to stand guard at my house. You don’t understand the kind of mental stress that my wife is going through.

Sunil Prabhu has sent a notice to me saying that the Shiv Sena will disqualify me. I will speak to him when I come to Mumbai, but let me ask him will he accept the responsibility if someone under mental stress commits suicide because of such pressure tactics.

I am fortunate that my wife is strong enough to brave all this, but the fact remains that she is under mental stress.

It was under this situation I left Mumbai, but not before ensuring the safety of my wife.

I can face this stress, but what about women MLAs who are with us?

What do you mean when you say that Shiv Sainiks have not yet hit the streets? Threatening someone is a sign of desperation and proves how uncivil you are. Nobody is scared of such threats.

What they couldn’t do in Konkan (strengthen the Shiv Sena in Narayan Rane’s bastion of Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts) I did it without engaging in a show of strength. I do have my share of fights for establishing the Sena’s supremacy in Sindhudurg and this is how you are treating me.

We are proud of being Shiv Sainiks; Balasaheb gave jobs and employment opportunities to lakhs of Marathis.

But if you are threatening us like this, then we will have to start a new, peaceful, fight in Maharashtra against such lawlessness.

My humble request to him (Raut): Please don’t utter such statements.

We believe in maintaining law and order and we will seek lawful recourse against such threats.

We have enough moral right and strength to ward off such threats peacefully. At least, I have that moral strength.

Didn’t I defeat such tactics (of use of force and muscle by Narayan Rane’s supporters) in Konkan without resorting to street fights?

Such tactics, such statements, will bring them more trouble, and I strictly mean legal problems.

People of Maharashtra are witnessing such strong-arm tactics and they will teach such people a lesson.

IMAGE: Deepak Kesarkar, second from left, with then BJP chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and other Shiv Sena leaders at the inauguration of the Chipi airport building in Sindhudurg in 2019. Photograph: Deepak Kesarkar/Twitter

Has your wife accompanied you to Guwahati?

She has been kept at a safe place in Mumbai. She needs treatment for her mental trauma. Should you behave in this manner when a person is under mental stress?

Why did you send people to stand guard outside our house? She was quite upset and was reluctant to let me leave home. And then you have Sunil Prabhu writing to me that he is not convinced of the reason why we (the rebel MLAs) are rebelling against them.

What else do you expect when you threaten us with people (Shiv Sena workers) outside our homes? Block our paths by parking vehicles in between.

Aren’t you Maharashtra’s chief minister? Isn’t it your duty to safeguard women and MLAs? What notices are you serving us?

You claim to follow the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, but Chhatrapati’s legacy was protection of women and their respect.

Are you planning to treat women (Shiv Sena) MLAs (who have joined Eknath Shinde) the same way when they come to Mumbai?

And you call yourself brave by threatening even women MLAs? Is this the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj?

Will you compensate any MLA’s family if she or he commits suicide because of your pressure tactics? Instead of threatening us with street violence, learn to win people’s hearts.

Don’t force us to react. Even we can talk. If we start speaking, you won’t be able to control the situation (in Maharashtra).

I have won Konkan for the Shiv Sena on the strength of my speeches. Do you think we will fall short of doing the same against you?

Don’t think we will keep quiet for long if Raut saheb keeps giving such statements. ‘Shiv Sena workers have still not hit the streets’… what kind of threat is this?

You dare us to come to Mumbai (to prove our majority) and in the same breath you threaten us with street violence.

It is fine if you don’t want to join hands with the BJP. Likewise, accept our position that we don’t want to stay in the MVA.

Is the Shiv Sena wrapping itself into a civil war of sorts?

In democracy you have to accept the majority. Uddhav saheban-ni yacha vichar kela pahije (Uddhav Thackeray should introspect if such tactics are right or not). Is this the right way to deal with the opposition to you?

Sanjay Raut has been repeatedly asserting that the MVA will win the floor test whenever it happens. He claims to have been in touch with 21 Shiv Sena MLAs who are in Eknath Shinde’s camp.

He speaks whatever comes to his mind. It is a psychological war he is trying to wage. Do you really think we are so naïve to believe you? I will make you speak with 37 MLAs here. Ask them if they are scared of such tactics?

I can show their video recordings to you saying they are with Eknath Shinde saheb on their own free will. They were not threatened or pressurised to join his camp. Let him (Raut) win the floor test if he is so confident. I wish him luck.

Nitin Deshmukh, one of the MLAs from the Eknath Shinde camp, has come back to Uddhav’s camp. While he is yet to explain who sponsored his chartered flight from Guwahati to Mumbai he is claiming that he was threatened by your camp. Why did he come back and join the Thackeray camp?

He is lying. There are videos of him signing the letter of support (to Eknath Shinde). There are videos and photographs showing how happy he was while on his way back to Mumbai.

Then why did he quit the Shinde camp?

He must have been threatened by them.

But the fact is that he still quit your side and came back to Mumbai. Why would he do that if he was happy with Eknath Shinde in Guwahati?
Are we to think that there is more going on behind the scenes and he has come here with Shinde’s message or some sort of compromise between the two warring Shiv Sena factions?

That is for him to answer. But a compromise (between Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde) is utter nonsense. Just flight of imagination and kite flying by some media groups.

But he has been claiming that he was roughed up by cops in Surat and doctors tried to poison him.

If that were so, why did he look so happy with us? Why did he sign the letter of support?

He denies signing on any document. He says he usually signs in English and the letter that the Shinde camp has shared with the media has his signature in Marathi.

He is lying. He did sign that letter of support.

But what about tweet threats (Sanjay Raut’s tweet about Shiv Sena workers showing their strength in the streets of Maharashtra) that these leaders are sending us?

Before pointing a finger at us, look what you did in 2019. Didn’t you break the alliance with the BJP and joined hands with the NCP and Congress? Did anybody hit the streets at that time?

People voted for your alliance with the BJP, not for forming an alliance with the NCP-Congress after the election. We accepted this unnatural alliance for two-and-a-half years. We stayed loyal to you, gave you an opportunity to work for the welfare of the people.

But you allowed the NCP-Congress to work against the Shiv Sena’s interests. You let them finish half of the Shiv Sena.

How can you (Thackeray) forget the role (Sharad) Pawar saheb played in the three rebellions (of Chhagan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane and Raj Thackeray) within the Shiv Sena (when Bal Thackeray was alive)? Did we blame him (Pawar) and refused to work with him? To prove our loyalty to you (the Thackeray clan) we cooperated with him (Pawar) and tried to work for development of the state for two-and-a-half years. And now he (Pawar/MVA) has succeeded in creating a vertical split in the Shiv Sena.

Everybody is now watching the moves Eknath Shinde will make to form the next government. Has he entered into any discussions with the BJP in that direction?

To answer it honestly, any government in Maharashtra is now possible only with an alliance with the BJP. That is the only option left.

The chief minister will belong to the BJP? Or, is Eknath Shinde eyeing the post?

How can I comment on such questions? We have vested all such power with Shinde saheb.

Why is Eknath Shinde suddenly espousing ‘Balasaheb’s Hindutva’ now after enjoying the perks of power for two-a-and-half years?

Uddhav saheb did not take any decision on our pressing demand (to join hands with the BJP) for the first 18 months (of the MVA government’s tenure). We can understand that he was fighting against Covid (between 2020-2021 when Covid was at its peak in Mumbai) then, but one has to make up his mind some day and act.

Why do they want people to do their bidding unwillingly, forcibly?

The NCP repeatedly created obstacles for a scheme I had proposed for the poor people of my constituency and Konkan for two-and-a-half years. That has affected our support base in Konkan. Why should people pay the price for your power politics?

What progress has the state made in the last two-and-a-half years? Are we supposed to keep fighting (among ourselves) for five years? Did people elect you to keep fighting?

Maharashtra can progress only when the prime minister and chief minister work in tandem. Only then will India and Maharashtra progress.

How is Balasaheb Thackeray’s Hindutva different from Uddhav Thackeray’s Hindutva? He is also claiming that he has not quit Balasaheb’s Hindutva…

We have been pleading with him (Thackeray) that BJP’s and our Hindutva are aligned together. I came from the NCP (joined the Shiv Sena after quitting the NCP).

I had nothing to do with it (the Shiv Sena’ Hindutva). But soon after joining Shiv Sena I did follow the principles of Hindutva espoused by Balasaheb.

If Balasaheb were alive today, he would not have approved of the MVA alliance. He would never have compromised on his Hindutva.

Also, Shinde saheb will be in a better position to answer this question (about Uddhav’s Hindutva and Balasaheb’s Hindutva). Shinde saheb he kattar Shiv Sainik aahet (Shinde saheb is a diehard Shiv Sena worker) mentored by Balasaheb and Anand Dighe (the late Shiv Sena strongman from Thane district who had his differences with Bal Thackeray).

Entire Maharashtra knows about Balasaheb’s Hindutva. The fundamental issue is how many in Maharashtra have liked our alliance with the NCP-Congress.

The MVA constituents claim there is pressure of ED enquiries against the MLAs who have sided with Eknath Shinde.

They can continue with their ignorance. Who can save you if you don’t want to see the ground realities? One, two, three MLAs could get threats from ED, but what has such threats got to do with you not approving development projects in our constituencies?

It is only now (after the rebellion) that the government is issuing GRs (government resolutions) clearing development funds. You had ceded all the rights related to distribution of funds to the NCP. You opened your eyes only after all the people have bolted your stables.

Are Shiv Sena MPs also trying to reach out to Eknath Shinde?

Hugely possible (of Shiv Sena MPs reaching out to Shinde). All the MPs I have met with had expressed their opposition to an alliance with the NCP-Congress. 90 per cent of the MLAs too have expressed their displeasure.

When the NCP-Congress is out to finish your MPs, MLAs, your spheres of influence, then why do you have so much love and affection for them?

Tyanna post aahe pan bakichya Shiv Senecha kaay? (Uddhav Thackeray became the chief minister ,but what about the interest of the Shiv Sena?

) We are happy that he became the chief minister. It was out of respect and love for him (Thackeray) that we dragged along in this alliance for two-and-a-half years.

But please do not threaten us with street violence. Do you have some humanity left in you?

We will come to Mumbai once our group is formed and openly move around in the streets of Mumbai.

The MVA has petitioned the deputy speaker to disqualify 12 rebel MLAs…

Manoos jevha hatash hota na tevha to radeecha daav khelto (People play such tactics when they accept defeat). They know they have lost, so such desperate tactics.

How can you disqualify us (the 12 rebel MLAs) without hearing our side? Is Sunil Prabhu (the Shiv Sena’s chief whip now) a judge to decide whether the letter (of support) submitted by us is genuine or not?

You have to follow a process, follow principle of natural justice.

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