Nitin Gadkari, RSS’s Blue-eyed Boy Who Works Like a Congressman, May be BJP’s Answer to Alliance Trouble

If strong personalities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah helped BJP come to power at the centre and many states thereafter, the need of the hour is to win more friends ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Venkatesh Kesari | 

Nitin Gadkari draws his strength from the RSS. 

Born and brought up in Nagpur, and groomed by the sangh in its shakhas, Gadkari, however, in his working style is more of a vintage Congressi. 


The former BJP president is not apologetic about his strong ideological mooring being rooted in un-adulterated Hindutva. 

But unlike some of his peers in the BJP, Gadkari for one can vouch for friends in other political parties - from the Left, the Right and centrist parties. And of course, not to forget the corporate India. 

The union surface transport minister is not new to controversies. At times, he courts them. But his statements of late, especially after the three state assembly polls are being watched with great interest in political circles and outside. 

The blue-eyed boy of the RSS, it seems is attempting to emerge as a rallying point in the BJP just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year. Despite his clarifications that some of his statements media reported were twisted out of context, the buzz about him is only growing. 

Gadkari’s forte is his ability strike a rapport and communication with even his arch rivals. Precisely what the BJP needs today in the face of allies dissatisfaction. 

If strong personalities of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah helped BJP come to power at the centre and many states thereafter, the need of the hour is to win more friends ahead of the 2019 general elections. 

The loss of power in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh has only emboldened the opposition, especially the Congress. 

In the last one week, while the party has maintained a conspicuous silence, Gadkari, a seasoned politician, is suggesting something between the lines. 

Gadkari is testing waters at a time when TDP, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party have quit the NDA, ally Shiv Sena is threatening to go solo while the Janata Dal,(U),the LJP, the Apna Dal are bargaining hard for their pound of flesh in the seat sharing negotiations.

The BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is finding it difficult to retain allies and get more - Dravadian parties, the Biju Janata Dal, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the YSR Congress Party are reluctant to be seen in close company of the BJP under the current dispensation. They are all weighing their options. 

In such a situation, Gadkari's personal rapport with regional parties could come handy for the BJP. He is considered one union minister who is seen to have maintained cordial ties with state chief ministers - from Arvind Kejriwal to E Palanisamy. 

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter earlier this year personally thanking him for the work done in her constituency, Rae Bareli. Both allies and opponents in Maharashtra - Shiv Sena and NCP - have not had issues with him. 

But the question remains why Gadkari fancies his chances as a pole within? Why not other seasoned players like Rajnath Singh or Arun Jaitley, who also have friends across the political spectrum? 

The answer perhaps is that Gadkari is the only minister in the top party echelons who has run his ministry his own way and has taken clear and categorical positions. 

Interestingly, the first challenge to the current regime from every possible quarter has come from Maharashtra. The first BJP Lok Sabga MP to quit party: Nana Patole from Bhandra-Gondia. 

Swabhimani Paksha led by Raju Shetti was the first ally to leave NDA. And there is not a day when BJP's oldest ally the Shiv Sena does not attack Modi and Shah in its mouth-piece Saamana. 

The recent developments bring to focus the upcoming BJP conclave and brainstorming in Delhi next month. The road for the party after Gujarat elections has been far from easy. The arithmetic of the Karnataka assembly revived the third front. The message from Bangalore was loud and clear. Even if BJP fell short by 6 seats, opposition would come together to deny BJP a chance at governance. 

And in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, despite a loss, state leaders Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje still remain well entrenched. 

Nitin Gadkari may or may not play a role as the situation develops and new scenarios unfold in the days ahead. But for now, he seems to be the only one testing waters while others wait and watch from the sidelines. 

(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)


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