Your party has been declining in Maharashtra. Will this poll reverse the trend?
Yes. There is total dissatisfaction with the BJP-Sena performance here. Then, for us, the Congress-RPI-SP alliance has revived interest and the Sonia factor has reversed demoralisation. Also, traditional sections—poor and backward classes—which supported Mrs Gandhi and moved away with liberalisation, thinking there was no place for them, are back because of Sonia Gandhi.
How many seats will your party get here?
A substantially higher number of votes. With Dalit and Muslim support there will be a vote swing of 4 per cent—this will be away from the UF. Unhappiness with the BJP-Sena performance will result in a shift from the BJP-Sena. A 4 per cent difference, and the results of '96 will be reversed.
Has Sonia replaced stability for the BJP and Sena?
Their desperation is clear. They have understood "we are missing the bus". But there is another school of thought in the parivar—the RSS has said attacks on her should stop. A similar campaign against Indira Gandhi had boomeranged.
Would Sonia's contesting have marred Congress chances?
She is behaving in a dignified manner. I don't think she will allow a situation to be created which will attract such criticism.
Are Muslims coming to the Congress after steps like apologising for Babri and denying Rao a ticket?
Muslims are in a mood to support any party that is in a position to defeat the BJP.
Many Muslims have joined the BJP. Bal Thackeray has also advocated a national monument at Ayodhya.
They also put up two token Muslims on the dais for all meetings. But all this is show, the minorities don't trust them.