Why is Minister Nitin Gadkari thinking of quitting politics?

TeaThe 2010 National Council meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Indore is remembered for many things. Nitin Gadkari became the youngest party president at the age of 52. His ‘penance’ measures made headlines at the council meeting. About 4,400 party representatives were made to live in tents. Snake charmers were deployed to guard against poisonous snakes crawling inside. Mosquito repellents were in great demand.

Inconveniences aside, the newly elected BJP president was a huge hit. An ordinary party worker, who once pasted posters and wrote graffiti in Nagpur, rose to the top post. In a cultural evening on the concluding day, Gadkari enthralled the audience by singing Manna Dey.How is life a puzzle, sometimes it has happened, sometimes it makes me cry.

His teammates remembered his song last week when Gadkari, now the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), got philosophical at an event in Nagpur. Condoling how politics has become “100 percent” Empowerment: (Powerplay)”, he said, “I think a lot about when I should quit politics. There are more things to do in life than politics.”

sannyas From politics at 65! Why would such thoughts come to his mind? After all, they have a weighty portfolio. He has set new targets – a highway construction target of 60 km per day. He is one of the very few cabinet ministers who actually run their ministries, taking decisions on their own. The rest are happy, waiting for the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and following them. The bureaucrat recalls an instance when the then-MoRTH secretary received a call from higher powers to tell the minister that he should stop a weekend visit to Nagpur, which happens to be the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The secretary entrusted the unpleasant work to a joint secretary. When Gadkari told this to Gadkari, he apparently laughed: “Tell whoever sent this message that Nagpur is my constituency. Thousands of people wait for me to complete their work. I will not disappoint them.”

His equation with top RSS leaders has remained strong even in the Narendra Modi era. It has kept him politically afloat even after being denied a second term as BJP president due to hitherto unproven allegations of financial irregularities.

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for his anger about the politics of Empowerment: Or the power play, he could not have been serious – unless he took a jibe at the incumbent government in the BJP. To cite just one example, this is coming from a politician whose late night arrival in Panaji enabled the BJP to form the government in 2017 with only 13 MLAs in the 40-member Goa Assembly.

So, what do his philosophical views reveal last week? As mentioned above, he is one of the very few ministers in the Modi cabinet who run their own ministries. As BJP president, he used to say that his party needed to increase its vote share by 10 per cent to come to power – from 18 per cent at the time. Well, the vote share of BJP has doubled since 2009. For this he should be thankful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Read also: Now 100% politics about ‘power play’, think a lot about when should I step down: Nitin Gadkari

fear of the unknown

Here’s a catch. Gadkari is a man of ideas and purpose – electric highways between Delhi and Mumbai, hovercraft from Delhi to Agra’s Taj Mahal, seaplanes, amino acids from hair, storing the country’s urine to eliminate fertilizer imports, etc. There are not many people taking his views in the present government.

For a minister called ‘Spiderman’ by BJP MP Tapir Garo for creating a network of roads across India, Gadkari’s graph is progressively falling. He may not be the most popular leader in the Modi regime, but his proficiency as an administrator was acknowledged at least in Modi 1.0. In 2014, he was given the portfolio of shipping with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. In 2017, he was also given Uma Bharti’s portfolios of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. He was also given the additional portfolio of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj for a few months after the tragic accident of Gopinath Munde in 2014.

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Even though Gadkari was kept out of the prestigious Cabinet Committee on Security, he was a heavy minister in Modi 1.0. People close to him got the impression that he also wanted an over-stretched infrastructure ministry, including the railways.

Gadkari, however, is losing ‘weight’ in the Modi 2.0 government. In May 2019, when he upheld the MoRTH, he was denied shipping and water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation. He was given MSME (Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) with MoRTH. Last year, he was also dropped from the MSME portfolio.

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Gadkari’s ‘weight’ decreased in Modi government

There was a time when Gadkari used to participate a lot in cabinet discussions. Government functionaries say that they rarely intervene nowadays. Gadkari often told reporters that he was an ‘outsider’ in Delhi. Remembering the BJP leaders, when they reached Delhi on a winter evening in 2010, they did not have a sweater. A party colleague took him out to buy one. By the time he reaches Delhi, the party leaders will give air till 7 pm. Gadkari started the meetings late at night. However, he was a great host. BJP leaders jokingly said that he fed them such delicious food late in the evening that they would fall asleep and said ‘yes’ to whatever Gadkari offered.

When he became the BJP President, the so-called ‘D-4’ or ‘Delhi-4’ – Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar – ruled. It was a big challenge for the outsider. There is no D-4 today. But even in the Modi-Shah government, Gadkari remains an ‘outsider’. As BJP president, he promoted several leaders – Dharmendra Pradhan and Smriti Irani to name just two. They keep a safe distance from him today.

Gadkari is a member of the BJP Parliamentary Board, the party’s top decision-making body. But its meetings are just a formality to seal the decision taken by Modi and Amit Shah. The BJP toppled the Uddhav Thackeray-led government in Maharashtra and then installed rebel Shiv Sainik Eknath Shinde as the chief minister. Gadkari watched the entire drama from the sidelines.

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What makes Gadkari a philosopher?

Modi and Shah are fostering a new generation of leaders – their loyalists, essentially. Ex-servicemen are predictably gripped by the fear of the unknown – uncertainty about their political future. Modi inducted 19 cabinet ministers from the BJP in 2014. Four of them – Gopinath Munde, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar – have passed away. Venkaiah Naidu was made the vice-president and three were sent to the Raj Bhavan. Today only four of those 19 are left in Modi’s cabinet – Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Narendra Tomar and Smriti Irani.

In all, 69 ministers have left the Modi government since 2014. Most have sunk into oblivion. While Uma Bharti remains in the limelight by pelting stones at liquor shops, others are eagerly waiting for rehabilitation. These include several former high-profile ministers – Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar, Harsh Vardhan, Suresh Prabhu, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Mahesh Sharma to name a few.

However, he is unlikely to join the cabinet again. Those who have managed to survive in the cabinet since 2014 will have to keep their fingers crossed. If today there are only four left from the 2014 cabinet, one can only imagine how many of them will be in the Modi 3.0 cabinet – until the miracles hope of the opposition parties are fulfilled.

Modi and Shah are in the process of bringing about sweeping changes in the government and the party. This is probably philosophizing the giants. Nitin Gadkari must remember what Shivraj Chauhan sang that evening in Indore in 2010: “Oh river go, let’s go to the stream,

Thoughts are personal.

(Edited by Likes)

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