Maharashtra Housing Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil has said the Congress' opposition to abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir shows the party has deviated from its ideology of national integration. He also said that Rahul Gandhi set a "wrong precedent" by quitting as Congress chief after losing the Lok Sabha polls and his decision "demoralized" the opposition party's cadre.
Talking to PTI while campaigning for the BJP and Shiv Sena in Ahmednagar district, which has 12 Assembly segments, the former leader of opposition in the Assembly said the decision to scrap Article 370 was taken to "unite the nation". "Congress says its ideology is national integration. But, the party is opposing the government's decision. Congress deviated from its ideology long ago. This is the reason its numbers in the state Assembly came down to 42 (out of total 288) in the 2014 polls," he opined. He claimed the Congress and NCP will have "no future" after the October 21 Assembly polls. "The BJP-Sena 'Mahayuti' will win with a majority, getting 220 to 230 seats out of the total 288. The NCP will get 25 to 30 seats, while the Congress will finish with 10 to 12 seats," he predicted. The BJP will be the no.1 party with maximum seats, followed by the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, he added.
Vikhe Patil, the BJP's nominee from neighbouring Shirdi Assembly seat of Ahmednagar, said he was working with an agenda of getting a "12-0" result in the district. "The Congress is contesting only three seats in Ahmednagar, including Sangamner where it has fielded state party chief Balasaheb Thorat. “What will be the situation elsewhere in the state, the less said, the better," he quipped. He said the state government's decisions of granting quota to Marathas and concessions to the Dhangar community were working well on the ground, and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna was also being implemented at the village panchayat-level. "Congress and NCP had the majority for 15 years. Why didn't they set up the Backward Classes Commission for taking a decision on Maratha quota? (NCP chief) Sharad Pawar changed his stand on the Maratha quota several times," he said.
Vikhe Patil was also critical of Rahul Gandhi for quitting the Congress president's post after his party's defeat in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. "A leader is responsible for the defeat and success of the party. He set a wrong precedent by quitting. He should have stood by the cadre. By quitting, he demoralized them and finished their confidence," the former Congress leader said. The Congress and NCP have an "individual-centric agenda", he claimed. "Their focus is leadership, and not people. In the Congress and NCP, interests of local or state leaders are considered first and then focus is on people," he alleged.
The issue of the Nilwande irrigation project in Sangamner for the benefit of locals was kept hanging for 25 years. The present BJP-led government gave funds for completion of the project and now the work would be done in two years, he said. "In Congress and NCP, there are many leaders while the BJP and Shiv Sena have only one each - Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray. Hence, the implementation of decisions is faster," he claimed. "In the Congress and NCP, local issues are kept pending and people are pitted against each other," he alleged, adding that if the issues are resolved, their leaders would not have any work. The minister said his father late Balasaheb Vikhe Patil worked on the 'Maharashtra Pani Parishad' for several years, demanding equitable distribution of water. "If the previous Congress-NCP rule had accepted his proposals and if it was a success, then credit would have gone to my father, not Pawar. The impression here is that only Pawar has solutions to agriculture and water issues," he claimed. Since the Congress and NCP have only leaders, there is a problem for development works at the implementation stage itself, he said in remarks laced with sarcasm.
The housing minister, who joined the BJP after the Lok Sabha polls, said he is now satisfied and happy with his decision, since "good suggestions are considered in the Fadnavis regime". Praising the chief minister, he said Fadnavis speaks of a drought-free Maharashtra and the Cabinet has approved a detailed action plan to implement the ambitious program. "It is an achievement that Fadnavis thought about it and prepared a plan to implement it. But, the 'Messiah of farmers' didn't think about making the state drought-free," he said in a veiled attack on Pawar. He recalled that his father's suggestion of providing water to rainfed areas was rejected by Pawar by saying irrigating such a region was non-productive. "Pawar and my father had differences on this issue. Pawar wanted the agriculture sector to be prioritized," he said.