Mumbai: Ten months ago, the terror attacks on Mumbai sparked public outrage that forced chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and deputy chief minister R.R. Patil to step down. The low-profile and urbane Ashok Chavan was picked as the new chief minister. Chavan says in an interview that the Democratic Front government’s focus on infrastructure and development should see it win a third consecutive term in office in the 13 October state assembly election. Edited excerpts:
We are yet to see the manifesto of the Democratic Front government. What do you feel should be the compelling reason for the people of Maharashtra to vote your government back?
In the past five years, I feel that we have done our level best to see that the Maharashtra government delivers what we had promised to the people. We have taken several initiatives on infrastructure, throughout Maharashtra....The four-laning of the highways, the infrastructural development in cities like Mumbai, have been the focus, helped by the government of India and the state government for industrial development.
Gearing for polls: Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan. Hindustan Times
So you are saying the development plank would attract people back to this government?
The development of Maharashtra, which is a prime state in the country, and making it globally competitive has been the vision for Maharashtra. Our government has the vision.
What we have achieved is before the people. What we want to do is continue the same pace of development for the next five years.
A lot has been done. Yet when you refer to India Today’s recent state of state surveys, it is sad for somebody who lives in Maharashtra to see that the state is at number 8 when it comes to a whole host of parameters. Why do you think this is the case?
I don’t fully agree with whatever surveys have been shown by some magazines. I think industry-wise, we have done our level best. If you compare the report of the Reserve Bank of India, which has been recently published, Maharashtra still stands as the number 1 state as far as the investment destination is concerned—whether it be foreign direct investment coming into this country, whether it be the local investments that industrialists have made in this country...
Let’s talk about Mumbai. In 2004, before the elections, Manmohan Singh was in the city and he made the promise that Mumbai would become Shanghai. Anybody who has been to China will realize that sounds like the emperor’s new clothes.
We mean to say Mumbai will be as good as any other city worth living, a good city in the world. That is what it is. You cannot have an identical Shanghai in Mumbai.
The idea was that Mumbai becomes a global city, a city that has the best financial centres of the world. Today, Mumbai is moving towards becoming an international financial centre.
The quality of life has deteriorated for a Mumbaikar.
I wouldn’t say so. Look at the number of new local trains added. They are done totally by the state government. If you go from an airport to the city, there is a big difference in what it was five years ago. The roads are much bigger.
Look at the work of the monorail and metro rail, things are in progress. It is going to take about two years time to complete.