Why Modi chose Ahir

A prominent leader from Vidarbha, Ahir unearthed coal scam

November 11, 2014 02:24 am | Updated 02:24 am IST - MUMBAI:

BJP MP Hansraj Gangaram Ahir had meticulously collected information on allocation of coal blocks. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

BJP MP Hansraj Gangaram Ahir had meticulously collected information on allocation of coal blocks. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

By roping in Chandrapur MP Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, nicknamed coal nayak for exposing the coal block allocation scam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has achieved two objectives.

The Prime Minister, by bringing him into the Union Council of Ministers, has sent out a signal that his government means business on the issue of probity in public life.

Mr. Ahir, hailed as a “role model” for MPs by the then Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, had meticulously collected information on irregularities in coal block allocations. After his numerous attempts to get information from the PMO went in vain, he, along with another BJP MP Prakash Javadekar (now a Minister), petitioned the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for an inquiry. Based on the complaint, the CVC ordered a CBI inquiry which proved to be costly for the UPA government. The Supreme Court eventually cancelled the allocations saying they were done in an “illegal manner.”

Secondly, Mr. Modi has sent out a message that the development of the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra, which has witnessed sporadic but peaceful agitations for a separate State for a long time, is one of the top items on the agenda of his government. Mr. Ahir is a prominent leader from the region.

The BJP was one of the national parties that at one time had supported the demand for a separate Vidarbha. The first BJP Chief Minister of the State, Devendra Fadnavis, is also from this region.

The State unit of the party in general and Mr. Fadnavis in particular were in a spot when Mr. Modi, in one of his very first Assembly election rallies, had emphatically declared that Maharashtra would not be divided as long as he was in power. Mr. Modi’s stance was seen as a counter to the campaign by the Shiv Sena that the BJP, if elected to power, would carve out a State of Vidarbha.

With Mr. Fadnavis as the Chief Minister, Nitin Gadkari (who is an MP from Nagpur) as Cabinet Minister and now Mr. Ahir as a Minister of State, the Prime Minister has ensured that Vidarbha is at the centre stage of politics.

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