‘A pro-incumbency tsunami is coming’: Sudhir Mungantiwar

Unfazed by the “sympathy factor” for his Congress rival in Chandrapur, the veteran BJP leader says people right now are thinking only about progress.

Published : Apr 08, 2024 13:16 IST - 6 MINS READ

Sudhir Mungantiwar. six-term MLA and Cabinet Minister from Maharashtra addressing a rally. 

Sudhir Mungantiwar. six-term MLA and Cabinet Minister from Maharashtra addressing a rally.  | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

Sudhir Mungantiwar, the six-term MLA and Minister for Forest, Cultural Affairs, and Fisheries in Maharashtra, is confident that the “pro-incumbency” factors and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity will help him retain the Chandrapur Lok Sabha seat against a tough challenge from Congress candidate Pratibha Dhanorkar, the widow of former MP Suresh Dhanorkar. The voting will take place in the first phase on April 19. In an interview with Frontline, Mungantiwar discusses his vision for Chandrapur, the key issues in the election, and why he believes the BJP will emerge victorious despite local political challenges.

After spending thirty years in Maharashtra politics, you are now trying your luck for Delhi. What is your vision for Chandrapur as well as a Member of Parliament?

I have been in politics for forty years now. As an MLA and Guardian Minister thrice, I brought various schemes and projects to Chandrapur. There is a military school, a female student university, and now Tata Cancer Hospital will have one hospital here. But now the time has come that I should use my experience and bring more schemes and projects to Chandrapur from the central government. This is why I am contesting the election.

The Congress candidate against you is an MLA and the widow of the late MP from Chandrapur. She has huge sympathy right now. Do you think your battle is tough because of the sympathy factor?

I won’t call it tough. Everyone knows my nature. I had very good personal relations with the deceased MP Baluji. But people right now are thinking about progress, about development. They have decided that they will join the Vikas Yatra of BJP under the leadership of PM Modi. So, I respect her [opponent Pratibha Dhanorkar], but this is the battle for development, and people are with me.

Although you say that the battle is for development, issues like inflation and unemployment are becoming serious in this election. Don’t you think they can derail your talk of development?

I won’t say there is no inflation. However, the rate of inflation during the last 10 years is lower than what it was before 2014, particularly during the UPA era. There was a film by [and starring] Manoj Kumar in the 1970s called Roti Kapda Aur Makan. The story was about the basic needs of human beings. The Congress ruled this country for 70 years. But the film is enough to tell us that the Congress failed to uplift the people from poverty. Modiji has worked hard to bring the poor out of poverty. So, even the last man of this country knows that the Congress’ cry over inflation is hollow. 

Also Read | In Maharashtra, an election like never before

What do you think then that the issues will be important for the upcoming election?

Visible development is the topic of this election. Look at the quality of roads in Chandrapur; the building of highways and other infrastructures all over the country. The Congress kept Vidarbha backward. But now Vidarbha is getting its due share. Major irrigation projects are being completed. These projects were stuck for thirty, or forty years. At the same time, Modiji has a vision for the poor. Today, 80 crore Indians are getting free ration. No leader in the world cares for his people like PM Modi. Media may keep asking me questions, but I am telling you, there is a pro-incumbency tsunami coming in India in these elections and you will see it on June 4.

The local political issues are being considered a major setback for you. Like the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi [VBA] has fielded a candidate from the Teli community here. The community is known for its clear support to the BJP. So, this candidate will possibly divide the votes of the community. Do you think this is a major setback to you?

I don’t see it as a setback. The Teli community also knows that PM Modi is from their community. Now whom will they vote for? Will they vote for one mere worker of one party or the Prime Minister of India? So, I won’t call it a setback. The VBA has every right to put their candidate. I am known for the politics of Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas [Modi’s slogan, meaning With All, Development for All]. All the communities are supporting us. The opposition does not have a strong issue, so they are trying to spread this issue among the voters.

There is also an important narrative in Maharashtra which is going against the BJP. The splitting of parties like Shiv Sena and the NCP, bringing down the government of Uddhav Thackeray, has hurt the Marathi pride. So, will people vote against this kind of politics, or will they be in favour of Prime Minister Modi?

I don’t think there is any such narrative. People will vote for PM Modi. Because, when they think of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) they think of it as a gang of corrupt people. Uddhav Thackeray was with us in the pre-election alliance of the 2019 Assembly election. But he broke away and joined hands with the Congress. He then lost his credibility. This time people are convinced only about the strong government in the Centre. So, all the manufactured narratives about breaking up Shiv Sena and NCP are not working on the ground.

Sudhir Mungantiwar at a local meeting.

Sudhir Mungantiwar at a local meeting. | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

Also Read | Maharashtra: Season of hard bargains

But it is also a fact that Prime Minister Modi has been addressing rallies on the only seats where the party is in trouble. In this case, your Chandrapur seat is the first of its kind in Maharashtra.

This is also a part of the media narrative against me. Modiji is addressing the rallies as per a plan to attract more and more voters from all over the region. Chandrapur is centrally located where the Yavatmal and Gadchiroli districts are adjoining. That is why he is coming to Chandrapur. His appeal and presence are a blessing for us, and we are sure that voters will ultimately support the ideas of PM Modi against any propaganda.

 So, will you be able to sail through with help of Prime Minister Modi’s image?

People have already decided that they want the third term of PM Modi. There are multiple reasons. From the security of the nation to making India the third-largest economy in the world. They all want to be part of this journey. I am just a member of this journey. People will vote for the “developed Bharat” and we all will see a confident, strong nation emerging out of this.

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