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Praised by rivals, Gadkari hails Modi

‘Best performer’ and ‘dream merchant’ label on minister

By J.P. Yadav in New Delhi
  • Published 17.07.19, 3:07 AM
  • Updated 17.07.19, 3:07 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Nitin Gadkari speaks in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday (PTI)

The Opposition on Tuesday lavished praise on Nitin Gadkari in the Lok Sabha, calling him a “dream merchant” and an “exemplary performer”, but the minister who painted a rosy picture of highways and the transport system under him credited all to his leader Narendra Modi.

Gadkari said the Prime Minister’s “strong political will” would be the impetus behind the country’s success and even quoted John F. Kennedy to liken future progress to that of America’s.

In the lead-up to the parliamentary elections, Gadkari had hit the headlines for his indirect swipes at the BJP leadership and was widely seen as a strong contender for the Prime Minister’s post if the party fell short of a majority on its own.

The impact of the BJP’s 300-plus mandate was, however, visible on Tuesday as Gadkari replied to the debate on the road transport and highways ministry’s demands for grants. “American roads are not good because America is rich, but America is rich because American roads are good,” Gadkari, seen as the best performing minister in the earlier Modi government, said, quoting Kennedy and pointing out that he has had these words put up in his office.

“The Prime Minister’s 21st century New India will be exactly similar. There will be new roads, new expressways and even flying double-decker buses. We will also bring ropeway cable car technology.”

Modi was not present when Gadkari spoke.

The Opposition appeared mesmerised as Gadkari painted a more than rosy picture of the future of highways and transport system in the country. “Gadkariji, you are an innovative and informative personality. We acknowledge this…,” Congress House leader Adhir Chowdhury said although he wondered where the funds would come from for the projects the minister had envisaged.

“Gadkariji, aap sapno ke saudagar hai (Gadkariji, you are a dream merchant),” Trinamul House leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said. Sudip, however, complained that road development had bypassed the eastern region.

The lone RSP member in the House from Kerala, N.K. Premachandran, known for picking holes and moving amendments, sprang a surprise by withdrawing all the cut motions he had submitted on the demands for grants.

“Considering the exemplary performance of the ministry and the reply given by the minister, I am seeking the leave of the House to withdraw all the cut motions,” Premachandran said to applause from the Treasury benches. He also called Gadkari the “best performing minister”.

While the Opposition lauded him, Gadkari took care to praise Modi. “If there is a will, there is a way. And if there is no will, there is only survey, discussion, seminar, committee, subcommittee and research group. The strong political will of the honourable Prime Minister and the strong political will of the country is definitely going to help us, and we will achieve our goal and we will be successful,” Gadkari said in reply to Adhir’s query on where the funds would come from.

On Sudip’s allegation about the neglect of the eastern region, Gadkari blamed it on failure to complete land acquisitions and remove encroachments. “I am not politically blaming you,” he said. “If your state government completes 98 per cent land acquisition for road projects and removes encroachments, I promise in this House that all the roads you want would be built by the NHAI (National Highways Authority of India).”

Sudip said the Bengal government doesn’t forcibly acquire land and ensures that farmers get the maximum value for their plots.

Gadkari said the experience was different in other states where people were happily parting with their land as governments were paying one-and-a-half times more than the market price.