A strong Congress is essential to India’s democracy: Gadkari

Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari.

Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari. | Photo Credit: PTI

A strong Congress party is needed to prevent regional parties from capturing the Opposition space, said Union Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nitin Gadkari while urging Congressman to stick to their convictions and remain with their party.

Speaking at a journalism awards event in Pune on Saturday, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, further said he was “not in the race” for the Prime Minister’s post.

“I am a national politician and am not interested in coming to Maharashtra [State politics] at this stage. Once upon a time, I wasn’t particularly interested in going to the Centre, but am happy there now. I am a conviction-oriented politician and not a particularly ambitious one,” Mr. Gadkari said during a Q&A session conducted by a prominent vernacular newspaper, as part of the event.

Remarking that a strong opposition was a sine qua non for democracy, Mr. Gadkari said a weakened Congress was not desirable for democracy as its place would then be taken by regional parties, which was not a good sign.

“Atal Bihari Vajpayee had lost the Lok Sabha election [in the late 1950s] but had still earned [then Congress PM] Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s respect. Hence, in a democracy Opposition’s role is very important. I wish with all my heart that the Congress remains strong. Those in the Congress today must stick to their convictions and remain in the Congress. They must continue to work and not despair of defeat,” said the BJP leader, speaking on the Congress’ rout in the recent Assembly elections in five States.

Mr. Gadkari said one ought not to ‘desert’ one’s ideology or party merely out of electoral despair.

“Every party will get its day. The point is to keep working on,” he said, adding that the ruling party and the Opposition were akin to the two wheels of democracy.

He recalled how he was once discouraged in the early 1980s from continuing with the BJP by late Congressman from Nagpur, Dr. Shrikant Jichkar, at a time when the saffron party’s fortunes were at an all-time low.

“Yet, I stuck to my convictions and persevered with the BJP, which saw its fortunes soar under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership to become the party it is today,” Mr. Gadkari said.  

The Minister observed that while there could be differences in thought (between leaders of different political parties), it did not mean they were enemies, while underscoring Maharashtra’s political tradition where people managed to get along despite differences.

Mr Gadkari’s comments come in the wake of a war of words between the tripartite ‘Maha Vikas Aghadi’ (MVA) coalition of the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress. and the opposition BJP in Maharashtra following a series of raids on MVA leaders and their kin, including the Enforcement Directorate’s recent raid on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s brother-in-law.

“Maharashtra has preserved this tradition where people of differing ideologies and viewpoints have coexisted… This kind of politics [of malice] is not acceptable to Maharashtra’s political culture. Today, rather than differing viewpoints or ideologies, the problem is of no ideology but rank opportunism,” Mr. Gadkari said, observing that the politics of the day seemed increasingly based on convenience rather than conviction.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2022 3:33:58 pm |