Urmila Matondkar: I am here to fight the politics of negativity and hatred

Rajesh Kurup Aastha Vijaywargiya Mumbai | Updated on April 26, 2019

Yesteryear actor Urmila Matondkar’s political debut in March this year raised many an eyebrow. The 45-year-old, a political greenhorn, opted to contest on a Congress ticket from the Mumbai North constituency for the 17th Lok Sabha elections and is readying to take on BJP strongman Gopal Shetty, who trounced Congress’ Sanjay Nirupam in 2014 by a huge margin. Matondkar, who was trolled on social media for lack of experience, is of opinion that the Modi wave of 2014 favoured Shetty, who calls himself the ‘garden king’. In an interview with BusinessLine, Matondkar says she has a better connect with the masses and will deliver on real issues such as women issues, water shortage, power crisis and improving infrastructure. Excerpts:

Why is Mumbai North considered as one of the most difficult constituencies?

This constituency is a representation of the entire country and its diversity. There are a lot of Maharashtrians, Gujaratis, people from UP and Bihar, Sikhs, Christians, and a large Muslim and Jain population. Secondly, in terms of economic strata, the constituency is so different. There are people who would be eligible for our NYAY scheme, as well those with really plush complexes, big buildings and houses. So there are all kinds of people and economic strata.

The infrastructure is extremely poor, there are huge water and electricity problems; housing is a huge challenge, which we hope to address through SRA schemes.

If you win, which would be the first issue you would address?

There is an urgent need to get water into houses, and then electricity. Can you imagine a part of Mumbai not getting electricity?

Also, the building of the infrastructure, improving of trains services – ramping up local services, getting a parallel track, and increasing ladies specials – and road widening, all these need immediate attention.

Much on the lines of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, you were also heavily trolled on social media and provoked badly...

I am in this field only to fight the politics of negativity and hatred, which is extremely saddening to me as a citizen.

I’m here to make those changes, so I can’t stoop to those levels of negativity, and retaliate to these kind of remarks, in spite of being instigated and having enough material to hit back. Destroying (trolling) by IT cells in Uttar Pradesh by the BJP government has to be eradicated, because of which I have been trolled so badly.

I refuse to believe that it is normal (trolling me), a woman with 27 years of glorious career, who was never trolled.

Your main opponent Gopal Shetty (BJP), who defeated Sanjay Nirupam (Congress) in the 16th Lok Sabha elections, is a strong candidate. How do you plan to compete with him?

There was definitely a Modi wave in 2014, and yes, he (Shetty) has been around for a long time. But there are two different issues here: being present for a long time is different, and the work he has put in is different. He calls himself the ‘garden king’. As a Mumbaikar, I love gardens, but what about the other issues. Actions should speak louder than words.

India has seen Modi in action, but you are new to politics. Does that weaken you?

No, it only tires me to have to answer that question again and again. The fact that I haven’t run a public office shouldn’t be an issue, because I am more empathetic to people’s issues than our respectable current MP. I am totally confident that I will be able to deliver.

You had accused Modi of failing to deliver, but citizens are pleased with Modi’s actions, especially the Kashmir issue and Balakot strike...

Taking care of a border security is one of the issues that government has to manage. It is not to be politicised to win votes and gain sympathy. When you promise something like ₹15 lakh in the name of chunavi jumla, offer two crore jobs, have farmer suicide at its peak, demonetisation and the GST, that have completely crumbled the economy, I think the election is the time to answer those questions.


How will the government execute NYAY?

I think it is one of the biggest and most promising things that the Congress has come up with. The propaganda they (BJP) are trying to sell is stealing from the middle class. NYAY would work for 70 per cent below the poverty line; it will stabilise the economy.

Many Bollywood and sports celebrities, who came in to politics, never did well?

But there are the Jayalalithas and Sunil Dutts as well.

You had roped in a couple of celerities for your campaign, including Shatrughan Sinha?

I have refrained from calling any celebrity from Bollywood because I don’t want to put them in a tight situation and since I have been called glamour doll or politically zero, I say whatever is the outcome of elections, I would fight it on my own. Shatrughan Sinha came in for Sanjay Nirupam, while Shabanaji (Shabana Azmi) has known me since I was 11 years old, so she is family to me.

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Published on April 26, 2019
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