‘Many prominent families are returning to anti-BJP fold’: Shahu Chhatrapati

Shahu Chhatrapati, 75, the descendent of the 20th century King Shahu known for his belief in social justice, is contesting on a Congress ticket in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur Lok Sabha constituency. Chhatrapati’s entry into politics has changed the dynamics of western Maharashtra. In an interview with Frontline ahead of the general election, Chhatrapati explains why the current Central government’s “autocratic” and “dictatorial” attitude forced him to enter electoral politics.


 You have been known for your socio-cultural activities. But now at 75, you have entered politics. What spurred you?

 I have been in the periphery of politics. But I always had good contacts with politicians across the spectrum. Getting into electoral politics is the need of the hour. Look at the situation. The government is autocratic. So, many like-minded people, as well as the public, used to talk to me about this. Finally, they asked me to contest to oppose the situation [the dictatorial attitude of government] firmly.

 We are seeing several positive changes within the INDIA bloc in western Maharashtra. Are many prominent families returning to the anti-BJP fold?

 I believe that their actions are inspired by the values that King Shivaji or King Shahu or Mahatma Gandhi had believed in. They have realised the need of the hour. I welcome it.

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 Many prominent families have joined the BJP in the last few years. But now they are returning. Is this change of heart for real?

 Yes, I also hear many are returning. It is a good thing. Somebody should have raised their voice against the situation. I would say they have realised what is right.

 Why did you choose the Congress? There was the option of Shiv Sena or the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)…

 The one-word answer is ideology. My line of thinking matches that of the Congress. The party has done tremendous work for the country. It played a major role in making India independent. Post Independence, the Congress has played a pivotal role in bringing prosperity and stability to the lives of Indians. The party is secular, and it is always aligned with people’s welfare.

 There is also strong criticism against you. That you are the king. If a common person wants to meet you for his work, would he be able to?

 This is propaganda. You can ask any non-political organisation or institution about my participation in their non-political work. I have been available all the time. But, after I become an MP, I am also planning to open offices in each Assembly constituency. So, all the work of the people with me will get streamlined.

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 You have been a supporter of the Maratha community’s protest for reservations. As you are contesting the election, how do you see this issue getting solved?

 Every time I get an opportunity to speak to Maratha community members, I have said let us all go to Delhi and meet the Prime Minister. Because the solution to increase the reservation cap beyond 50 per cent is only in the hands of the Central government. This is the right way to solve this issue.

 So, as an MP, will you have a similar approach? Will you raise the issue in Parliament?

 Certainly. I am contesting with a Congress ticket. The Congress party has assured the raising of the bar of 50 per cent reservation. We have also assured a caste census. This will be the way to find a solution for people’s demands.

 Do you believe that a caste census will be an answer to the demands of reservation?

 Yes. This census will help us know the real picture of society. It will help increase reservation. It will also give us a better idea to design other policies. So, a caste census is very important.

 You are the descendent of King Shahu who started reservations for the Bahujan Samaj for the first time in India…

 When Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj first introduced the policy of reservation, he too faced criticism. But the policy proved the most important step. Many bright people got an opportunity. It is time now to widen the scope of reservation and give justice to all societies. This will have a nationwide impact.

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 Your election campaign is low profile. Is it strategic?

 Frankly speaking, I am not that aware of these modern-day campaign strategies. There is a team that my younger son, the Congress party chief in Kolhapur, Satej Patil, and others are managing. I am travelling around villages. You call it whatever you wish. But I have always been like this.

 What is your vision for Kolhapur?

 Kolhapur is famous all over India for its progressive values, for sports such as wrestling, football, and food. But Kolhapur was a pioneer city in many ways. It brought in new industry, a reservation policy, and modernised agriculture. I want to make Kolhapur a centre of modern, progressive values again…. development in both sections: ideological as well as technological. It should become the capital of ideas and progressive action.

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