Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said technology has evolved such that he doesn’t need to travel, and work from home helps him keep an eye on the entire state.
In the first part of a two-part interview with Sanjay Raut, executive editor of Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, Thackeray addressed the opposition’s charge that he was not visiting Mantralaya, the state headquarters. The first part was published Saturday.
“One must understand that Mantralaya is shut right now. This allegation has no heft. Technology has advanced so much. If you can’t make use of this technological advancement then you are really unfortunate. We are doing so much work using technology. Now after this interview, I am going to go home and have a meeting with the BMC chief over video conferencing,” he said in the interview.
Thackeray has faced criticism from across quarters — the opposition as well as leaders from allies Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, albeit in hushed comments — for mostly operating out of ‘Matoshree’, his home in suburban Bandra.
“I can sit at home and go everywhere. This is the advantage of technology. At one time, I am covering the entire state and taking instant decisions. Travelling is also important, but it brings some limitations. You can only go to one place, but when you use video conferencing, you are going everywhere,” Thackeray said, while pointing out that there’s a lockdown in the state anyway and travelling to address people would be breaking the rules.
Thackeray has on several occasions reminded citizens to strictly follow the lockdown instructions as Mumbai became the biggest hotspot in India.
When Raut, a senior Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP, praised Thackeray for having studied Covid so deeply, and suggested he was perhaps the only CM to have done so, he replied: “I don’t travel. I sit at home, so I get to study these issues. Travelling without studying the issue and studying the issue without travel. You decide what you want out of the two.”
On Fadnavis, opposition criticism
Thackeray indirectly targeted opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis, a former ally-turned-rival, for meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi to discuss the Covid crisis in Maharashtra. The senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Maharashtra CM, has been critical about the situation in the state.
“He gave his MLA fund from Maharashtra to Delhi, so he is doing everything from Delhi,” Thackeray said,
Fadnavis has been touring various parts of Maharashtra to inspect the state’s preparedness to battle Covid, and has publicly expressed concern. He criticised the Thackeray government for not conducting enough tests and for not being transparent about the Covid fatalities. An audit on Covid data in June saw the number of deaths spike by around 2,000 in a day. Maharashtra accounted for nearly two-fourths of these deaths.
“I am honest with my people. Till the time my people have faith in me, I don’t have anything to worry about. Rest is okay. Someone will talk. Will keep talking. It might bother them that without going anywhere, without travelling anywhere, one organisation picked Maharashtra’s CM among the country’s best chief ministers. Hi suddha pot dukhi asu shakel (This could also be of distress),” Thackeray told Saamana.
The CM also noted the praise received from the World Health Organization for Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum which became a hotspot in Mumbai, was a matter of great satisfaction. Following this, the Washington Post too has praised Mumbai for its data transparency, he said.
“Those who talk about lack of transparency probably don’t get the Washington Post,” Thackeray said, in a jibe at Fadnavis.
“It is possible that many have lost their sense of taste after the government changed in Maharashtra,” he added.
‘I am not Trump’
Thackeray also addressed the brickbats he has been receiving for being steadfast in not wanting to lift the lockdown. Mumbai eased its restrictions towards the end of June, and on Thursday, Thackeray announced there would be further easing of measures from 1 August.
While many “smart” people are advocating that the lockdown be lifted, he said he was not ready to face a situation where the virus spreads further and fatalities rise.
“There are many smart people who are opposing the lockdown. What has lockdown achieved? Is lockdown a solution? Lockdown brings economic distress — these things are said. I only tell them that — okay we will lift the lockdown, but if people die here will you take responsibility?” the CM said.
“Then one must accept this. Let whatever happen … and let people die, but we don’t want a lockdown. Are we ready for something like this? I am clearly saying, I am not ready. I am not Trump,” Thackeray said.
Thackeray said, he does not want to say he is lifting the lockdown, neither does he want to use terminologies such as lockdown or unlock.
“Let’s not use the word lockdown. I will never say I am lifting the lockdown. But I am gradually opening sectors one by one and the attempt is such that once something is opened, it shouldn’t have to be shut down again,” he said.
“So we can’t think about just health or economy. It is a tightrope walk,” he added.
The second part of the interview is expected to be published Sunday.
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