Indian politics is a messy place, with too much of politicians to keep a track on. This new monthly column will feature one of these high profile figures. Right from their career highs to the mistakes they have done-everything will be discussed in brief. So that you are well informed for the coffee table/water cooler conversations next time!
Nitin Gadkari is the current cabinet minister in the Modi government, acting as the Minister for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping. Gadkari has always been, and is, one of the key personalities in the Bhartiya Janata Party. Starting as a PWD minister from 1995, Gadkari has seen several high (and little lows) over the years before stepping into Modi’s cabinet ministry.
Born and brought up in Nagpur, Maharashtra, Gadkari belongs to a farmer’s family. He completed his education (M.com and L.L.B) from Nagpur university. Law studies brought him closer to politics. He joined the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) branch in his University. He continued his family tradition of joining RSS, but alongside, also made an official entry into the party as the city president of Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth wing of BJP.
He always had a sharp eye for politics. His qualities as a lawyer and a leader ensured he climbed the success ladder without stumbling. Gadkari’s contribution to the party was recognized by the top members and was made the youngest BJP president when the party was at its lowest.
Maharashtra has benefited most from Nitin Gakari’s leadership, Nagpur to be specific. He held his position as the MLC for Nagpur for a staggering 15 years. Over the years, he not only looked after his home constituency quite well, but also helped BJP gain a much stronger hold on the state. He was elected as the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly. The result was a huge marginal win in the Lok Sabha elections against the Congress stalwart Vilas Muttemwar (in his own constituency). He was graduated from General Secretary to the President of Maharashtra BJP and then finally the national party president , succeeding Rajnath Singh.
There were two factors on which Gadkari has stressed the most for development- Privatization and Road Connectivity. He has been successful in bringing huge investments from private firms for rural connectivity projects. His persistence towards ensuring rural connectivity resulted in Maharashtra having an all-weather connectivity for 98% of the population. He has led several Road committees and green-lit various projects under them. He is also credited for the construction of 55 flyovers in Mumbai and Mumbai-Pune motorway, thus being termed as the “flyover man“.
His clean, honest, well-spoken and hard-working image is what helped Gadkari become the president of the BJP. But here is where things were turning sour for the “young” president. As his term was coming to an end, Gadkari lost that image. An I-T raid on the Purti industries ( one of his many firms ) revealed dubious investments to the group. This harpened the anti-corruptional image of the party. Within hours, his name was striked out from the president list and Rajnath Singh was yet again elected. He also got into differences between Gopinath Munde, another strong BJP leader of Maharashtra. To add to the worries, he was charged for abatement of bribery during the Lok Sabha election rallies. This came after the famed Yogita Thakre controversy, where a seven-year old girl was found dead in one of his cars parked outside his residence. That case in itself was so twisted and botched up that proved Gadkari may not be as “clean” as he was being portrayed.
The opposition, of course, took advantage of this time and again, but they got a taste of their own medicine when false allegations were made. Congress’ Manish Tewari was made to publicly apologize when he linked the Adarsh scam to Gadkari, saying that he too owned a flat in the society. Last year, Arvind Kejriwal had to face a defamation suit filed by Gadkari for his false allegations in a statement. This goes on to show that despite his image taking a hit, Gadkari continues to remain a man with strong words.
While at his home state, things were still rocky. The Shiv Sena wasn’t happy with Gadkari’s closeness to Raj Thackeray and Munde was stealing his limelight. But none of that affected the Lok Sabha results as his hold over Nagpur was as strong as ever. He has always been a strong follower of Modi, which is why it wasn’t surprising to see him emerge as the cabinet minister. The transport ministry was where he must have felt at home.
Since then Gadkari has worked closely with the PMO to come up with flagship initiatives and speed up his work. Schemes like Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna was given a major push. He also continued to work towards making more flyovers. His megaproject, Setu Bharatam, aims to overhaul the existing bridges and also build new ones. This 50,800 crores massive project is expected to be completed by 2019, and Gadkari is putting his might towards it. From road safety to sustainable transport, his ministry has shown commitment to all the aspects of transports.
Gadkari is a well admired figure in the assembly too. Rarely do the oppositions have any complaints against his office. And even if they do, he counters them with his sweet talks. He comes across as a calm, composed leader and has rarely outspoken against his opponents.
Like many BJP leaders in the topmost hierarchy, Nitin Gadkari comes from a humble, middle class background and has been raised and promoted by the RSS to the top. He did take a big hit during the end of his president term (of the party), but the previous records were just too good to ignore. That made him ultimately land on the present position. He has, till now, proven his worth as the Transport Minister. But that one controversy and that one scam is enough for anyone to keep dubious eyes on him.
In a land where its leaders are more interested in destroying things rather than making them, Nitin Gadkari stepped on those roads for all the right reasons. I wish to see him flourish even more in his tenure and redeem his credibility towards his party and the public.