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‘Great time for women in politics’

Priyanka Chaturvedi is the spokesperson of the Shiv Sena and also happens to be a Rajya Sabha member of the party. Anjali Bhatia caught up with Chaturvedi to get insights into the internal squabbling of the Shiv Sena, which at the moment is facing the worst crisis since its inception.

Anjali | New Delhi |

Priyanka Chaturvedi is the spokesperson of the Shiv Sena and also happens to be a Rajya Sabha member of the party. Anjali Bhatia caught up with Chaturvedi to get insights into the internal squabbling of the Shiv Sena, which at the moment is facing the worst crisis since its inception.

Q. In the present political scenario in Maharashtra, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena seems to be marginalized. Do you see the hope of its revival?

Ans: The strength of a political party is based on the cadre. Their loyalties and hearts are with Uddhav Thackerayji. His Shiv Sena is the real Shiv Sena. They feel Uddhav Ji was betrayed by the 40-odd members of the Shinde faction who sold their souls for petty gains to become ministers and get plum posts. Uddhavji trusted Eknath Ji with the Urban development ministry which no chief minister had parted with. Cadre is angry with them and would teach them a lesson at the appropriate time. There’s a sense of betrayal across the rank and file of Shiv Sena. Elections come and go, and MLAs come and go. They will lose or win but the cadre is the one whose backing is the deciding factor. The strength is with Uddhavji.

Q. Earlier you were with the Congress, then you went on to join the Shiv Sena. How did you make the transition? And what are the cultural differences between the two? 

Ans: I am thankful to the people of India for giving me so much love and affection. They always gave me a patient hearing even if their point of view differed from mine. I was given a chance to speak for Congress and I acknowledge that. Of course, I think I did justice to my job there when the momentum was building against it and many ministers were doing firefighting. I was doing my bit explaining to the people. Indeed it was not easy to leave the party. In fact, I was about to leave politics at that point in time. Adityaji said why to leave, come to Maharashtra, it is your place, you have worked here. So I got the confidence to be in politics again. You know it really felt bad when that incident happened and the Congress party did not stand by me and brought back the miscreants without even informing me. There are times you have to take a stand and stand up for your ethos and also send a message across.

Q. There is a general perception that Shiv Sena has deviated from Hindutva and the BJP accuses Uddhav of having given up the Hindu agenda. How true is that?

Ans: Hindutva as preached and practised by the BJP is fake. Hinduism does not teach backstabbing and backbiting. It does not teach hatred. Uddhavji and Shiv Sena are for real Hindutva, the real essence of Hinduism. Uddhavji gave Rs one crore donation to Ram temple. He and his family practice Hinduism in the true sense and would never deviate from it.

Q. Now it is the Eknath Shinde faction which is calling the shots. Do you think they are getting stronger and will be able to rule Maharashtra?

Ans: Let me tell you, this is not the first time Shiv Sena has seen such a split. Sena saw a big chunk of people moving away when Mr Ganesh Naik went away. But Shiv Sena survived. Such betrayals cannot bring down the party which has a broad mass base and has stood the test of time. Shiv Sena under Uddhavji is a potent force committed to the development and welfare of Maharashtra and its people.

Q. What do you think is the future of Mahaaghadi? Since the fall of the government, it has been in a disarray. Will it survive the test of time? 

Ans: We have stood together and it is still intact and showing no signs of wilting away. Mahaaghadi is a beautiful experiment where different parties with different ideologies have come together for the betterment of Maharashtra and its people. The idea of debate, dissent, and then decision is beautiful in democracy and that is what we practice in Mahaaghadi. Often we all have set aside our ideologies to work together as one potent force, be it in times of Covid or other serious situations. Adityaji went abroad to bring in a handsome amount of investment for Maharashtra. It is what the democratic process should be like, discuss debate and disagree yet stay together for the larger good of the people. We agree to disagree and yet respect each other. The diversity of Mahaaghadi is its strength and I am sure it will do a lot of good to the people of Maharashtra.

Q. What is your take on Vedanta’s project moving away from Maharashtra to Gujarat? 

Ans: I think the people of Maharashtra have been betrayed. The jobs and the revenue which was to come to Maharashtra have been shifted to Gujarat overnight and the so-called government of Maharashtra could not do anything about it. They were not even aware nor were they taken into confidence. They were busy politicking and playing their petty games while Maharashtra’s project was shifted to Gujarat. It is a great betrayal and smacks the incompetence of the government. 

 Q. What kind of support can young women joining or aspiring to join politics expect from your party? 

Ans: Shiv Sena has had a tried and tested way of engaging women. It works at the levels of Shakhas (branches), with Shakaha Pramukhs (branch coordinators) and other people who look after different regions where women jointly contribute. Women are above 50 per cent of candidates in the local corporations, and the Mayor of Mumbai is a woman. We have other women as Mayors in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). We also have a vice-chairwoman in the state assembly. We have also launched Pratham Ti, which means “women first,” where we encourage women in the party to consider running for office at the assembly and the parliament rather than just working for companies. Women can join and collaborate with us through the parent party, the Mahila Wing, or the Yuvati Sena Wing. On a personal level, I interact with many women on numerous forums where we discuss politics and gender, and I attempt to impart this sense of confidence to other women by sharing my own experiences. I’d be willing to mentor young girls who wish to work with me in politics to better understand how everything operates. For me, Shiv Sena has been a very empowering space and gave me the freedom to implement my ideas. My suggestions were taken seriously by the party. The party doesn’t reject your ideas just because you are a woman or you are inexperienced. Other parties speak up for women’s empowerment, but in terms of implementation have been woefully short, maybe they don’t take women as serious policymakers.

Q. How accessible is politics to women in India today?

Ans: Politics aside, empowering women is important for the development of our country and economy. We require more female political voices. I’ve always advised people to get rid of their negative perceptions about politics, politicians, and policymaking. I’ve observed politicians working around the clock for their organisations or constituents. Politicians that don’t contribute much but receive a lot of attention may exist. Politics, in my opinion, is a field that gives women a sense of agency and helps them feel as though their contributions and thoughts strengthen our country. Why have we allowed the hurdles to women’s political engagement to erect themselves? I believe we had forgotten that when the Constitution was drafted, women were made equal citizens. And despite all the obstacles, I believe that there has never been a greater time for women to join politics than right now.