Priyanka Chaturvedi: 'Congress speaks of ideological change. But it uses Raj Thackeray. Doesn’t it show lack of leadership?'
Priyanka Chaturvedi left the Congress and joined the Shiv Sena last week. She spoke with Rohit E David on what she faced in the Congress, going from a national to a regional party and why she thinks this is Shiv Sena 2.0.
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Q. What had happened in September last year that you asked the Congress party to take action against some officials?
I was having a press conference in Mathura, where the local people thought that I was going to aspire for a ticket — they started threatening me and said that they will not allow me to step into Mathura and they would create a ruckus in the press conference which they did.
After the press conference, they all climbed up the dais and they started screaming and shouting and got into a fist fight. They created a massive ruckus, there was a public fight. After I was escorted away by the police, about 40-50 people barged in where I was staying and said nasty stuff like perhaps I have compromised in someway to reach where I am. They said that my rise in the party has been way too fast.
Later, they said that ‘We are letting you go but you know what we can do if you step into our territory again' and that I should not have any political aspiration from the city of Mathura.
Q. Why did you leave the Congress now? You have could have done so when the election period was over?
I could have left it after that or before the elections began. This is the question of why now, why in the middle of something, why not before when I was denied a ticket — the so-called reason for me leaving the Congress. I could easily have hopped onto another ship, got a nomination and moved on — but the point wasn’t that. The entire issue came up during the middle of the election. It was something which had troubled me a lot during elections, I was pursuing within the party to ensure that suspension of these people happens and ensure they do not return to the party. This is the question which I had asked the party too — why did you have to reinstate them?
Four people were suspended for six years — but they were reinstated within six months.
Connecting the issue with elections is just wrong.
Q. Did you speak with Rahul or Priyanka Gandhi before taking this decision?
So, I had flagged the issue with all of them. I had expressed my displeasure over what had happened. It became a matter of priority at that time. More than that, it was me who decided to take a call on the issue which had troubled not just me but my family members, even after that incident happened — they continued to be hounded in that small town.
I decided to stand up for the entire family.
Q. Are women actually safe in Congress or any political party?
Yes, they are. Women who enter politics come into a more empowered environment; they are more aware, political parties are more aware than ever before, social media is active. Women are safe — but there are instances of prioritisation that we need to address. There is a loophole which exists. This loophole is not only in politics but in corporate spaces as well — that if a woman speaks up, she is going to damage her career.
This loophole needs to be plugged. Society needs to look at this.
Priyanka Chaturvedi says political parties are far more aware of women's safety but there are still social loopholes. (Source: PTI)
Q. Why did you join Shiv Sena?
Well, this incident made me realise that I need to go back to my roots into the city which I gave up my service for and started an NGO for the 26x11 terror attacks.
In my political journey, I had diluted the entire cause to work towards public service. So, I decided that the Shiv Sena was a party which had represented itself in the municipal corporation for so many years. If I was to make a substantial change on Mumbai infrastructure, etc., this was the platform I was going to choose.
I moved from a national platform to a regional party.
The commitment was more towards the city and Maharashtra and the people of the state. This being my birth place and also the place where I began my political journey, it was a very natural call to make.
Q. You spent 10 years in the Congress, is there a possibility of you coming back?
There are some journeys you have experienced, you have contributed to the journey, they have also contributed significantly in building your personality.
However, there are times when you have to get off.
In terms of returning, at this point of time, I have committed myself to working for a political party which best represents Mumbai and Maharashtra.
It's all clear now: Priyanka Chaturvedi believes in a new and modern Shiv Sena. (Source: PTI)
Q. Have you taken this decision of joining the Shiv Sena in haste?
I do not call this a hasty decision. Just because I tweeted something on a particular day doesn’t mean that it wasn’t on the backburner or an issue which I was grappling with.
I selected to tweet — that was the day when the incident came to light. You must understand that as a party worker, I have never ever been compelled to speak through a public platform. I have always addressed everything internally. This incident happened to me in the month of September — it was spoken about internally and action was taken. When unilaterally, the decision to lift that ban occured, I felt saddened. I had addressed this issue internally and then, it was a matter of days that I had to make this public.
Q. Raj Thackeray will be campaigning for the Congress in Maharashtra — what’s your view?
This is for the Congress party to answer. I have been receiving a lot of flak on social media for joining a party which is apparently of goons. On the one hand, you speak about ideological change — on the other, you are using Raj Thackeray, who has carried out violent protests, and continue to seek his support. Doesn’t it speak of lack of leadership in Maharashtra? Doesn’t it also question that why is it that when Priyanka Chaturvedi is questioned, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil continues to be leader of opposition while his son is contesting on a BJP ticket — and he is campaigning for his son?
Q. What do you have to say about the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance?
Shiv Sena, holding the government accountable while being in government, is something which is a rarity in the political space we live in. They had questioned the government on demonetisation, Rafale, etc. Sena will not shy away from holding people accountable on the promises made to the public.
In or out of the alliance, they are the aspiration of the voice of Maharashtra. And that speaks of their commitment.
Sena will continue questioning the government even if they share an alliance with them.
Q. Has the Shiv Sena’s ideology changed over the years?
The Shiv Sena continues to have the aspirations of Maharashtra and has aligned itself with issues which are of concern to the state. What it aspires for them and what it is doing for them is crucial. Under the able leadership of Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray, we have seen them address issues which are closer to people’s hearts — whether it is about the city of Mumbai, farmers, the safety and empowerment of women and youth aspirations.