February 20, 2020
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'We Will See This Arrest Through'

Critics label Maharashtra deputy CM and home minister Chhagan Bhujbal's action against Thackeray as politics of revenge. Speaking to Outlook, Bhujbal avows he's being fair. No politics. No personalities. Only the keeping of a promise made to people.

'We Will See This Arrest Through'

Is it Chhagan Bhujbal or the home minister who's moved this file against Thackeray?
It is the home minister, of course. Who is Chhagan Bhujbal?

Revenge is sweet. Isn't there a slight element of political vendetta here?
No, absolutely not. It was a promise in the manifestos of all parties in the coalition. It's also part of our kimaan samaan karikram (common minimum programme). Then again, Abu Azmi's file was pending before us. Had I not acted on it, the opposition would've bayed for my blood. And fair's fair. Action had to be taken against Thackeray for the kind of communal passions he incited. Had I spared Azmi, they'd have linked me to the isi. Had I spared Thackeray they'd have said I am frightened of him. I detest both charges and gave them no room for casting such as persions.

Yet the Samajwadi Party (whose state president Azmi is) is part of your coalition...
'Without fear or favour' - these words were part of my oath of office. I haven't feared Thackeray or favoured Azmi and vice versa. I'm not punishing them, only sanctioned their prosecution.

The crucial thing in people's minds now is when the arrest will happen. Will you see it through?
It's for the police to decide when to effect the arrest. Papers are being readied. Yes, we'll see the arrest through.

Will the papers get lost along the way?
If they do, they can be reconstructed.

As this file was?
It was not (Bhujbal's emphasis) reconstructed. It was lying with the general administration department which is under the CM. I merely brushed the dust off the file.

You inherited a file that went missing for seven years during the tenures of at least two Sena CMs. Did both Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane overlook it?
(Shrugs) Kya maloom kabhi kabhi koi apne haath mein ek hukum ka patta rakhna chahata hai. Mein to seedha khiladi hoon (who knows, they might have wanted to keep a hidden trumpcard. I'm a straight player). But it could have been a case which even these CMs might have found difficult to withdraw without violating the law. So they sat on it. We didn't.

One sore point with Thackeray is that this is being done not by any Congressman but you, his former protege who has now turned against his guru.
My guru always taught me to be fair and just. That's what I'm being.

And are you quite sure this is not going to incite violence as in 1993?
Last time Hindu-Muslim sentiments were excited. This time all the brouhaha is about one man. Last time Thackeray was speaking up for Hindus. This time he's talking just for himself. No religion, no ideology, no issue. Just his own skin. Of all politicians in this country, he's the most cowardly. But for some sporadic protests, nothing will happen.

What about the sainik? Will he not take to the streets?
There's no sainik like that any more. Only some leaders who pay lip service to Thackeray; they do that and then apologise.

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