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10 February, 2019 10:24:15 AM

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Who is this Gadkari ?

Gadkari’s statements assume significance against the growing discontent within the party over its dismal performance in the recent assembly election
Kumkum Chadha
Who is this Gadkari ?

It is freak weather in India: thunder, hailstorm and an unexpected cold wave. What nature has ordained seems to be reflected in the political scenario as well: thunder and hailstorm of a different kind.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi who  lashed out at the Congress versus Union Minister Nitin Gadkari who is making a few noises.
In Parliament, it was clearly a 55 years versus 55 month challenge: 55 years of Congress rule versus 55 months of the Modi government wherein he enumerated what the Congress had not done and what the government under him had.
He started off a bit off colour though but gradually regained and lashed out in his inimitable style. He spoke about his being born in a poor family; he spoke about his challenging the “Sultanate”, read Gandhi family; he spoke about the Commonwealth games and how the Congress looted and boosted their personal wealth; he spoke about the Mahagathbandhan against the BJP, which he said is a but the 'Mahagathbandhan is ‘mahamilavat' (highly adulterated effort) of opposition parties:
“People did not want a "mahamilavat" (highly adulterated) government as they have seen how the NDA government which has a majority can deliver” he said in his nearly two-hour address in Lok Sabha where he launched a scathing attack on the  Congress and its first family namely the Gandhis. He spoke about itfavouring the culture of 'phone banking' and the massive NPAs  that the previous government left behind. In an apparent reference to Vijay Mallya, PM Modi also said that who fled the country are today crying on Twitter. "They are saying that I had taken Rs 7,800 crore but the government has attached properties worth Rs 13,000 crore," PM Modi said.

In another swipe, he spoke about BC and AD giving it a new definition viz BC being 'Before Congress and AD ‘After Dynasty' sending the BJP MPs to thump desks.

What however was unprecedented was the BJP MPs welcoming Modi with slogans of “Modi,Modi,Modi”when he entered the House: quite like a scene in public rallies thus lowering the decorum and discipline of the august House and taking sycophancy to its peak.

Lurking in the shadows is Union Minister Nitin Gadkari who is being pitched against Narendra Modi raising several questions on the intent, timing and gameplan of the RSS and also the Opposition given that Sonia Gandhi has lent tactical support to Gadkari in a few of her statements and actions too.  

For starters chairperson Sonia Gandhi led the Congress in Lok Sabha in appreciating Nitin Gadkari's work as Transport minister in improving the country's infrastructure.

It was during Question Hour, when Gadkari gave a detailed description of the work being executed and being undertaken for expanding the country's network which followed Sonia Gandhi thumping the desk as a sign of appreciation. Seeing this, Congress lawmakers, including party leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, too started thumping the desks appreciating Mr Gadakri's work.

ON an earlier occasion too, Sonia Gandhi had reportedly written toGadkari thanking him for his "positive response" to road issues she had raised relating to her constituency Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh.

It is quite clear that the Congress calculation is that even if it cannot rid the country of the BJP in 2019, it could train its guns on Modi and work towards there being a BJP led dispensation minus Modi.

In the span of the last month and a little more, Gadkari has showered wholesome praise on Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, counselled party members should speak less, and conceded that unemployment is a major problem facing the country. None of this could have been music to Modi’s ears.

But more telling are some of Gadkari’s statements which are interpreted as being anti leadership, specifically Modi and Amit Shah duo.

Sample these: In December last year he had said “Leadership should have the vrutti (tendency) to own up the defeat and failures. Loyalty of the leadership towards the organisation will not be proved till the time it owns up responsibility for defeat.” As if this was not enough there was more:  “If I am the party president, and my MPs and MLAs are not doing well, then who is responsible? I am.”

Gadkari’s statements assume significance against the growing discontent within the party over its dismal performance in the recent assembly election where it scored a zero. Fingers were pointed at the Modi-Shah duo’s style of functioning and the defeat being attributed to Modi’s magic being on the decline.

There are murmurs within the BJP of the party losing between 50 to 100 seats in the forthcoming elections in 2019 and therefore its dependence on allies increasing. That may also put a question-mark on Modi’s propagated  invincibility and the RSS scouting for a new and more pliable leader.

It is in this context that Gadkari fits the bill: his acceptability among other constituents of National Democratic Alliance rather high. With the National Democratic Alliance unlikely to have the requisite numbers that are required to form the government at the Centre, Gadkari is positioning himself and making the right noises at the right time. His criticism of the Modi-Shah duo could also be music to RSS ears because Modi is no longer its all time favourite.

Gadkari, it may be recalled was anointed BJP President  because he was and continues to be Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s blue eyed boy. He has practically grown up in a shakha and is seen in the mould of Sangh’s ethics: “not flashy or individualistic” as a functionary put it. That apart, he is viewed as a credible alternative to Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, should the BJP fall short of numbers and need to desperately rebuild the NDA in its bid to retain power.

That apart, the unpopularity of the Modi-Shah duo has ruffled feathers, both with the allies as well as rank and file of the BJP; their dictatorial style of functioning has ruffled feathers and put a question mark on their acceptability.  Under the circumstances Gadkari, the good Nagpur boy as the RSS views him to be would be best suited to replace Modi and could well emerge as a “more acceptable” consensus leader of a newly-constituted NDA.

Some disgruntled leaders have already asked RSS leadership   to get rid of “arrogant leaders” and name Gadkari as the prime ministerial candidate ahead of the 2019 elections.

Low key and one whose work speaks more than he himself does, Gadkari is popular with the people. He may not be a pan-India face but has the ability to edge his way up like he has done in the past to finally emerge a contender for the country’s Prime Ministerial candidate. With his strong links with the corporate world and himself being a successful entrepreneur, he once ran the controversial Purti group, which had interests in several sectors from real estate to power to sugar. As a minister he has delivered and done time bound projects.

 Therefore in the summer of 2009 when Gadkari was a  contender for BJP presidentship and Mamata Banerjeehad asked Who is this Gadkari, little did she know that he was a lumbering tortoise who will ultimately make it to the finishing line.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com)

SHK

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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