In the crowded area of Satranjipura in old Nagpur, BJP MLA Krishna Khopde’s office is bustling with people from all over. While the phones are constantly ringing, we try to settle down in the hustle-bustle, waiting for Khopde to arrive. As he reaches, he greets everybody around and immediately orders tea for us. As Khopde, who hails from a humble background, shares with us, his tryst with politics, he is quick to lambast his opponent Satish Chaturvedi at the mere mention of him in the conversation. Excerpts of the interview:
How did you embark on your journey in politics? When and where did it start?
I started my political career almost 40 years back. Initially, I would participate in numerous social gatherings, agitations and protests. I have continuously fought six elections in NMC and two in Vidhan Sabha. I emerged victorious in all the elections I contested. I have been associated with the BJP for long and have served as its city president too. Working for the common man and delivering what has been promised has been my agenda since the beginning of my political career. East Nagpur is a constituency that needs a lot of development that includes unauthorised layouts, which comprise almost 60% of the total east Nagpur area.
In 2014 assembly elections, you won by the second highest margin (after Devendra Fadnavis). What went in your favour? Would you attribute it to the Modi wave?
When I contested the 2009 Vidhan Sabha elections, I faced stiff competition from Satish Chaturvedi, who was a sitting MLA for five terms and a minister in the then Congress governement. Congress always had Shiv Sena as its competitor in the east Nagpur constituency. For the first time, a BJP candidate was pitched against Chaturvedi, and that proved to be extremely challenging for him. All the political pundits, analysts and media believed that it would get difficult for me to survive against Satish Chaturvedi because he’s one of the billionaires of the country with abundance of money. Despite all such assumptions, in 2009, I defeated him by a margin of 36,000 votes! In 2014 assembly elections, I improved my tally by winning people’s heart and won by almost 50,000 votes against Chaturvedi. I feel that because of Nitin Gadkariji and the BJP, I have been continuously winning my elections.
Your constituency – east Nagpur – is one of the most underdeveloped area in the city…
I feel you need to have the will power to work for people. Since 1980, Satish Chaturvedi had been entrusted with the responsibility of east Nagpur constituency. Had he been wanting, in 25 years, he could have changed the face of east Nagpur through development. Also, he had served as the Cabinet Minister in the state for 18 years. But, he was of the mindset that if he developed this area, people wouldn’t approach him frequently with their problems; and in turn they would eventually forget him. In fact, this has been Congress’ mentality. They (Congress) could have easily solved all the problems, if they really wanted to. Resorting to corruption, fooling the people and misusing public money was their only priority. This was the major reason why people didn’t vote for Chaturvedi. Today, gradually people are forgetting who he is.
He always knew that he would face stiff competition from me so he resorted to all sorts of malpractices to scare me but to no avail. Today, he owns 53 colleges in Nagpur and owns thousands of acres of land. He is so rich that he might not even be aware of the properties that he possesses. He has been misusing his wealth in politics. He’s beyond his voters’ approach as as he resides in a 400 crore palatial mansion in Crorepati lane (Civil Lines). ‘Unke ghar par pehle kuttey ke darshan ya fir guard ke darshan hote hain’. First you have to meet his dog or his guard at his place, unlike my office, which is flooded with people all day long.
When Nitin Gadkari was being touted as one of the frontrunners for Maharashtra’s chief minister’s position, after the 2014 assembly elections, you had offered to vacate your seat for him. Party insiders say that Devendra Fadnavis was miffed with you because of the same. What’s your equation with the CM now?
My professional and personal relations with both of them (Gadkari and Fadnavis) are very good. Fadnavisji and I started our political career at the same time. No matter what, Nitin Gadkariji has proved his mettle time and again. He’s created many bigwigs in politics. He has always motivated all the party workers including Devendra Fadnavis. So, there was a common feeling among the party workers to consider Gadkari as the frontrunner. Having said that, Devendra Fadnavis is equally capable and deserving.
As per the election affidavit, you have studied till fifth standard. But initially, you had claimed to have studied up to B.Com first year. Then, in your 2014 election affidavit, you claimed to have cleared exams till eighth standard. Why this discrepancy?
Before the elections, we had given charge to a single person for the documentation in the city. So, while feeding my details in the computer, an error took place; somebody else’s B.Com qualification was mistakenly mentioned as mine in my election affidavit form. Unfortunately, I signed the form hurriedly, without going through the details. When I came across this discrepancy, I apologised to the public and thanked the media for bringing the same to my notice.
You plan to make Lakadganj police station the state’s first smart police station. How do you plan to go about it?
The Britishers had built the Lakadgang Police Station and its quarters ages back. The quarters were so small that the families of the police personnel couldn’t get accommodated in them.
I got the roads cemented and solved the quarter’s water problem too. I took all possible efforts to make the accommodation operational for them. When I got the opportunity to become an MLA, I decided to revamp the police station and build good housing societies. Former Home Minster RR Patil had even conducted a meeting and appointed a nodal agency at NIT (Nagpur Improvement Trust) in 2011 for the same. The project went through a lot of problems then because of the Congress. Fortunately, after BJP government came into power, the project sped up.