Will build presence in the South: Nitin Gadkari

In an interview with The Hindu, Mr. Gadkari said the BJP remains united in its ideological commitment, with no discord between the party and the RSS.

Updated - April 06, 2024 04:26 pm IST

Published - April 05, 2024 01:39 am IST - Nagpur

BJP Leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari at his residence in Nagpur on April 4, 2024.

BJP Leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari at his residence in Nagpur on April 4, 2024. | Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

The Congress is synonymous with corruption and scandals, while the BJP epitomises development, administration and good governance, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said.

In an interview with The Hindu, Mr. Gadkari said the BJP remains united in its ideological commitment, with no discord between the party and the RSS.

Strongly defending the BJP’s alliance with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP, he said that the coalition had strengthened its position with the convergence of the three political forces.

Also Read: BJP discusses seat sharing pact for Maharashtra with Sena, NCP

The Union Minister said the BJP aims to strengthen its foothold in the southern States.

Watch | Congress synonymous with scandal, BJP stands for good governance
| Video Credit: Emmanual Yogini

“Presently, we hold significant seats in Telangana; our alliance in Tamil Nadu is poised to secure a substantial number of seats. While our presence in Tamil Nadu and Kerala is not as robust, we anticipate favourable outcomes in Andhra Pradesh for our allies. In Karnataka, we are committed to maintaining our success from the previous elections,” he said.

Excerpts from the interview:

‘Congress synonymous with scandal, BJP stands for good governance’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi predicts that the BJP will secure 370 seats and the NDA will exceed 400. Could you break down this forecast and highlight the States where your party expects significant gains?

We want to expand our presence in the southern States. Currently, we have good seats in Telangana; even in Tamil Nadu, our alliance will get a good number of seats. We are not very strong in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. But, in Andhra Pradesh, we are hopeful of getting good seats from our allies. Karnataka, we will maintain our victory in the last election. This time, our performance in South India will be better. Talking about Maharashtra, now we have three forces together [BJP, Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar’s NCP], our strength has increased and that’s the reason we’ll get more seats compared with the last election. Triple-engine government in Maharashtra is going to help people politically... Compare the performance of the Modi government over the last 10 years with the Congress regime over [the most part of] 60 years. The Modi government has proved to be the best as far as Indian history is concerned. People have realised that only the BJP government can fulfil all their expectations. We are confident of getting more than 400 seats

Over time, a personality cult has formed around figures like Mr. Modi, Mr. Yogi Adityanath, and now, Mr. Himanta Biswa Sarma. As someone deeply involved in organisational work, do you think overdependence on a few individuals will hurt the party electorally in the long run? 

This is a party with an ideology and its strength is karyakarta (the worker). It works on the principles of Deendayal Upadhyaya and Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee. The philosophy and conviction of the party are very clear, and they (Mr. Modi, Mr. Yogi and Mr. Sharma) are valuable leaders and they are working for the ideology of the party, organisation and people of this country. So, there’s no personality cult.

In the Modi administration, is there room for disagreement? Can you share an instance where you and Mr. Modi had differing views, particularly relating to politics in Maharashtra or your department?

Yes, there is. On many occasions, we have a lot of discussions in the Cabinet, and the Prime Minister allows everyone to talk and we share our opinion. Ultimately, being the Prime Minister, it is his discretion to make the decision.

The Opposition says that your party’s politics is Hindutva-centric and there is a notion that the BJP acts as a “washing machine” for political figures. What’s your take on it?

It’s a baseless allegation. Understanding the public pulse, leaders from the Opposition parties want to join the BJP, as the people are with us. They know that this party can make the future of this country better and can fulfil the expectations of this country. We want to increase the strength of the party and make its vote share more than 51%, so we’re taking people into our party. When leaders from other parties join us, they have to go with the conviction and ideology of the party. 

The BJP advocates for a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’, yet now we see it as a ‘Congress-yukth party’ [Congress filled party]...

Don’t take the direct meaning of these words. The feeling of the argument is to make the victory of BJP for the future of this country. We have already taken the experience of the Congress previously and the results were not good, including the problem of unemployment, poverty and poor infrastructure. Today, Congress is the parallel name for corruption and scandals, and on the contrary, BJP is a parallel name for development, administration and good governance. Nationalism is the most inspiring ideology for the BJP. Socio-economic thinking of Antyodaya is our target, that is to uplift the people who are socially, economically and educationally backward. 

You’re seen as a “development” man. Do parties win elections on the plank of development?

Absolutely. Look at Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura, and any northeastern State or any place across the country. A common man will narrate the success story of development and infrastructure in the country.

You have so far stood out as one of the few leaders to campaign in your own name instead of Mr. Modi’s. What are the key elements you are focusing on when it comes to Nagpur?

No. Mr. Modi is the leader of our government and the party. J.P. Nadda is the party president. They are our leaders. We are working and fighting the elections under their leadership. But, in Nagpur, I’m talking to the people as MP and we have completed works of more than ₹1 lakh crore in the last 10 years. It’s my duty to tell the people about the work that I have done as they have elected me.

What role does Nagpur play in the current government? There’s talk of another ‘faction’ controlling the party, making the RSS uneasy.

The RSS never gets involved in politics. The RSS never interferes and when it comes to its ideology, we are doing an excellent job. There are no differences [of opinion] between anyone in the RSS and the party.

Reflecting on your years as a Minister, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? 

The fast track decision-making process is the key. Delay in decision-making will cost a lot. I review every project twice a month and that’s the only reason for the success story of our road network. We need to resolve the problems immediately with the cooperation of the State governments. It’s a win-win situation. We can complete the work on time and reduce the cost. 

In your opinion, is a strong Opposition crucial for a healthy democracy in India?

Survival of the Opposition is important for democracy. Both, the Opposition and the ruling parties are equally important, as it’s a role given by the people. Many times, our party was in the Opposition. The Opposition has the right to criticise the government. The roles are mentioned in the Constitution. The success of a democracy lies in the four important pillars — legislature, executive, judiciary, and the media.

What, in your view, is missing from the INDIA bloc?

When they’re in a weakened State, they seek alliances. However, due to our strength, their attempts to unite are unsuccessful, evidenced by many of their departing from the parties. It poses a challenge for them.

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