Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari left many surprised when he recently hinted that he may consider quitting active politics as he wanted to spend more time on works related to climate change, soil conservation and waste land.
His statement at a recent event in Nagpur has fuelled speculations about a possible rift with the party top brass and even the likelihood of him being denied a ticket in 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Opinion: Gadkari overplayed RSS clout, may face fate of BJP’s old guards
‘Alright if people don’t vote for me’
Speaking at Dr Mohan Dharia Nation Building Award ceremony in Nagpur on Sunday, Gadkari said there is a lot of room for experiments in critical areas like water conservation, climate change and use of waste land. “I like to do them and sometimes do them forcefully. I have already told people it’s enough now; vote for me if you agree and don’t if you think otherwise,” he said. He didn’t stop here and went on to add, “I am in no mood to appease anybody. If you like me, it is okay, or someone else will come (in my place). In fact, I want to spend more time on these works (climate change and water conservation).”
Watch: Is Nitin Gadkari having a rift with BJP top brass?
Spelling out his views on politics, Gadkari said, “Politics is not a money-making business. Politics also means social work, to solve national issues and to carry out development work. Socio-economic transformation is the main goal of politics.” He said development will not sustain without environment and development is equally important in the modern world.
However, some close aides of Gadkari cautioned that people should refrain from drawing incorrect inferences from his remarks. “He clearly stated that the people would vote for him if they liked his work. This itself clarifies that he is not planning to retire,” they said.
Also read: “Govt not taking decisions on time”: Gadkari does some plain-speaking
Moderate leader who minces no words
Political observers see his remarks as a hint that all is not well between him and the party high command. Gadkari was dropped as a member of the BJP’s parliamentary board, the party’s highest decision-making body, in August last year. At the same time, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who too comes from Nagpur, was inducted in the BJP’s central election committee. Both these panels are crucial to the party’s organisational set-up.
Seen as the man behind the mega infrastructure push in the Modi regime, Gadkari is known for taking independent positions and cultivating an independent image. He is largely seen as a moderate BJP leader who avoids making communal remarks. However, he is known to make statements that seem critical of his own party. Prior to his removal from the BJP’s parliamentary board last year, he stated, “Today what we are seeing in politics is totally about coming to power.” Even earlier, he had joked in a Marathi interview with actor Nana Patekar that “BJP made all kinds of promises because they didn’t expect to win such a big majority”.
Also read: Country indebted to Manmohan Singh for his economic reforms: Gadkari
Dropped hints in the past as well
Incidentally, this is not the first time Gadkari hinted at the possibility of him quitting active politics. On July 23 last year, he said there were many other things to do in life. “When Girish Bhai (Gandhi) was in politics, I used to discourage him because I also sometimes contemplated quitting politics,” he said at the Shri Girish Gandhi Amrut Mahotsav Satkar programme in Nagpur. Similarly, in August last year, he said it was wrong to use someone and then throw him away. “Do not follow the policy of worshipping the rising sun,” he stated.
Gadkari first contested Lok Sabha elections from Nagpur in 2014 and defeated seven-time MP Vilas Muttemwar. He retained the seat in 2019 Lok Sabha elections by defeating Congress’ Nana Patole. He is known for carrying out unprecedented development works in the city, primarily to boost road infrastructure. His party men credit him with changing the face of the city in the last 9 years and often refer to him as ‘Roadkari’ for his mega infra push.