“Politics is the last resort for the scoundrel”, wrote great playwright George Bernard Shaw. This adage fits present-day Indian politics, where political parties are trying every trick in the book to score over their rivals. The latest victim of this campaign of calumny has been the Union Minister for surface transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari.
The former president of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), alleged that there was a sinister and calibrated campaign to malign his and his party’s name as he castigated the opposition parties and a section of the media for twisting his statements out of context.
Now let’s delve deep into the controversy surrounding Gadkari, arguably one of the most performing ministers in the Narendra Modi government.
An edited video clip of Gadkari was shared on social media platforms by Sanjay Singh of the Aam Admi Party, which was picked up by the media. Since the video clip was purportedly aimed at hitting the top leadership of the BJP and also creating a wedge, it went viral on SM platforms.
Parallels were drawn over Gadkari’s removal from the BJP’s Parliamentary Board and the Central Election Committee. There has been a practise that former BJP presidents of the party will automatically be members of the parliamentary board. The two former presidents of the BJP, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah, have been retained in the party’s apex decision-making body as members. Another former president, Venkaiah Naidu, has retired from active politics after serving as Vice President of India.
Gadkari’s exclusion was bound to raise eyebrows as, being the ex-president of the BJP, he should have been retained on the parliamentary board. Party insiders say retaining former chiefs was a practise and not enshrined in the BJP’s constitution, hence Gadkari was excluded along with Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. It would be pertinent here to mention that the chief ministers of BJP-ruled states used to be members of the parliamentary board. Tongues started wagging that Chouhan was on his way out after being denied the nomination by the party’s top decision-making body.
Herein lies the catch, as Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of India’s politically most important state, has not been included in the parliament board either. So, talks of Chouhan being sidelined do not hold water. There was another notable exclusion of Syed Shahnawaz Hussain from the parliamentary board. The BJP brought in Sardar Iqbal Singh Lalpura, the chairman of the Minority Commission, in place of Hussain, who was the last Muslim leader in the central team after the exit of Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi from the union cabinet. Although Danish Azad Ansari, a Pasmanda Muslim, is a minister of state for minority affairs in Uttar Pradesh.
Every move the BJP makes is aimed at winning elections. It appointed Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister, to the parliamentary board and also appointed him to the central election committee. Gadkari baiters were quick to seize on Fadnavis’ inclusion as the BJP’s top leadership’s move to cut him to size. Certain political commentators went so far as to drag the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) into the fray. Stories appeared in the media that BJP president JP Nadda removed Gadkari from the parliamentary board at the behest of the RSS. Interestingly, Gadkari and Fadnavis both hail from Nagpur, where the headquarters of the RSS is situated.
Then came the edited video clip of Gadkari that gave clear notions that he was unhappy with the BJP top brass and was giving veiled threats. Gadkari posted multiple tweets on the microblogging site and the full video of his speech in Pune on his Instagram account to debunk the malicious campaign.
In the video, Gadkari is seen talking about an incident in the Amravati district in Maharashtra when he was PWD minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP government. Gadkari was reminiscing how he overcame bureaucratic red tape in constructing roads in 450 villages of Amravati district, where more than 2500 children had died due to malnutrition. His statement was edited to give an altogether different connotation and add a twist to the ongoing political battle.