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When Nitin Gadkari speaks, you can’t miss a word

Gadkari told a media conference that the Congress was maligning its opponents 'deliberately to avoid a debate on performance and work'

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 10.05.19, 6:14 AM
  • Updated 10.05.19, 6:14 AM
  • 3 mins read
  •  
Nitin Gadkari at the media conference on Thursday Picture by PTI

You think you know your politics? You must take our poll-season quiz then.

  • Why don’t we talk about agricultural problems, economic problems, global economy, security matters, employment?
  • In my constituency, I announced on the first day that I will not take my opponents’ names and neither will I make a jibe at anyone.
  • I will give a list of my work and tell people to vote for me if they think the work is good.

Now, the question: Identify the speaker.

Answer: An Opposition leader advising Narendra Modi how to campaign, right?

Wrong.

The dispenser of the exemplary advice is none other than Nitin Gadkari, BJP leader and Union minister, and his target is the Congress. Or, so it would seem from the spoken words although mischievous minds, such as cynical journalists, are trying to read between the lines.

In the middle of a confrontation over calling names and not even sparing leaders who are no more, Gadkari told a media conference at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi that the Congress was maligning its opponents “deliberately to avoid a debate on performance and work”.

Make no mistake. Gadkari was stoutly defending Modi who has been vigorously campaigning on the plank of “performance and work” that include the Balakot air strikes, exploring the correlation between Diwali and the nuclear button, researching the last days of Rajiv Gandhi to come up with a discovery that the former Prime Minister was “Bhrashtachari No. 1” and how INS Viraat was “misused” in 1987.

In fact, Gadkari has done a better job than his boss when it comes to compiling the abrasive expressions that have been used by the Congress against the Prime Minister. Gadkari’s list has 56 entries, way ahead of the 35 in the Dictionary of Love unveiled by Modi on Wednesday.

Hawk-eyed quizzers should not ask whether the number 56 has anything to do with the chest measurement Modi used to harp on during the campaign of 2014. Such questions are out of Gadkari’s syllabus.

Gadkari said: “The Congress deliberately wants to ensure that performance and work do not become poll issues. That is why they have done two things. One, fear is their biggest capital. Create fear in the minds of Dalits, minorities, SCs and STs. Two, ensure that a discussion on the work done in five years, which had not happened in 50 years, does not take place. If the discussion revolves around development, then they know that it will be difficult for them and that’s why they are deliberately lowering the level of an election and have made dirty comments that are unfortunate for our democracy.”

Make no mistake: Gadkari is speaking about the Congress, not Modi. If Mark Antony were around, the Roman general would have reminded the audience that Gadkari came to bury the Congress, not to praise it.

Asked why “development was not the narrative when it comes to the speeches of Modi or BJP president Amit Shah, Gadkari replied: “I don’t blame you, I will tell the truth. There is no talk about the good concrete roads, but if there is a crack or pothole, it is published…. I don’t enjoy watching TV now because only ‘he said, she said’ runs. Why don’t we talk about agricultural problems, economic problems, global economy, security matters, employment?”

He added: “I try to do my best. In my constituency, I announced on the first day that I will not take my opponents’ names and neither will I make a jibe at anyone. I have done work valued at Rs 70 crore in my seat. I will give a list of my work and tell people to vote for me if they think the work is good. I ran the whole campaign like this, I did not take one name, and I will win with a good margin.”

The Prime Minister agrees, presumably.

Gadkari said the Congress had no credibility. “After 1947, Nehru said he will remove poverty. Then Indira Gandhi said this. She used the slogan of removing poverty and won (elections), but poverty did not go. Then Rajiv Gandhi repeated that, then Sonia Gandhi and then Manmohan Singh, but poverty did not go. Now, even Panditji’s great-grandson is saying the same thing. If he (Congress chief Rahul Gandhi) will remove poverty by giving Rs 72,000, then what did Pandit Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Manmohan Singh do? That is why the political credibility of the Congress in removing poverty has ended.”

If someone points out that Gadkari has managed to name almost every name that rankles Modi but without the rancour and bitterness that mark the Prime Minister’s barbs, it must be added that only a wicked soul can smell out such irrelevant trivia.

Gadkari has been a victim of such speculation earlier. For instance, last December when the genial minister said “the leadership should take responsibility for defeat in politics”, some unkind journalists had wondered whether it had anything to do with the BJP’s setbacks in the Assembly polls in the same month. Gadkari was quick to respond that his statement was twisted out of context, and efforts to create a wedge between him and the BJP leadership would never succeed.

Gadkari has lived up to that spirit through this spirited performance on Thursday at the BJP headquarters in Delhi.