News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » News » 'A prime minister should take the country forward'

'A prime minister should take the country forward'

By Aditi Phadnis
April 19, 2024 11:31 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

'The prime minister took a meeting recently and he asked for suggestions and ideas for a plan till 2047.'

IMAGE: Nitin Gadkari with his family and others after he voted in the 2024 Lok Sabha election at the Town Hall, Nagpur, April 19, 2024. Photograph: Kind courtesy Nitin Gadkari/X

It was 11.30 at night, but even after a hard day of roadshows and a public meeting with Narendra Modi in neighbouring Ramtek, Nitin Gadkari, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Nagpur as a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, spoke to Aditi Phadnis/Business Standard about projects finished and unfinished, his dreams and convictions, at his residence in Nagpur.


So, a victory with a bigger margin than before? You won the 2019 election by a 220,000 margin?

I have told my workers to strive for 75 per cent of the vote for the BJP in Nagpur.

I told them there was no doubt about the victory, but that we should strive to improve our vote share.

In 2019, I got 55.6 per cent of the vote. We should improve it this time. I am hoping to win by a margin of 500,000.

This constituency has a 40 per cent Dalit and Muslim population. Many from these sections will vote for me because I have done a lot for the constituency.

You have been all around. You will have seen the development Nagpur has undergone.

Besides being from the BJP and Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh, I have done a lot of seva (service) for everyone.

I have organised more than 45,000 heart operations, and helped thousands of cancer patients. I have five mobile vans.

They provide prosthetic equipment, do eye check-ups ... during the pandemic I spent Rs 100 crore to buy and distribute help kits, ventilators, oxygen checking machines, sanitisers, Remdesivir injections ...

I consider the people of Nagpur members of my family. I do not say this idly.

I have never discriminated against anyone, regardless of caste, community, or political belief.

Even Congressmen have helped me in many ways.

You've been president of the BJP. You contributed to the building of the party ahead of the 2014 elections. But in the south, the party has not been able to establish itself.
This is what is keeping the BJP from crossing the 400 plus mark the Congress was able to achieve (in 1984). Why is that?

In the south, politics was polarised right from the beginning. Where the contest was between us and the Congress, we won: Karnataka, for instance.

But in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, there were other actors.

And in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, we are still not in that position where we can challenge existing players effectively. This time, we will improve.

There is a lot of regional politics there. So national parties have been relegated to secondary position.

But you will see. Our vote share will improve phenomenally this time.

You've been making roads for 10 years at the Centre and for five in Maharashtra -- 15 years of building roads! Aren't you bored?

(Laughs) Actually, what we should and should not do is decided by the prime minister. But I explicitly asked for this department from him.

And now, after June?

That is his prerogative.

IMAGE: Gadkari offers prayers to Lord Ram on Ram Navami at the Shri Poddareshwar Ram temple in Nagpur, April 17, 2024. Photograph: Kind courtesy Nitin Gadkari/X

But if he asks you?

When he asks me, I will tell him. It is not right to ask for things publicly.

I ask because you've said you're interested in health and education.

Those are my projects. I run 1,800 Ekal Vidyalayas. I have many projects in both these fields. But whatever the prime minister asks of me, I will do.

You have a unique style of leadership. Some years ago, you let fly at officers at a National Highways Authority of India function.
You did it publicly and made no bones about your disapproval. Ministers don't usually do that.

I publicly commend work that is done efficiently and is thorough. But sometimes, there are delays.

For a building that should have cost Rs 150 crore (Rs 1.5 billion), Rs 650 crore (Rs 6.5 billion) was spent.

This makes me angry. It is public money after all. No one has the right to waste public money. So I said what I wanted to on that subject.

In the coming days, what should be the government's priorities for roads?

Green express highways. We have already changed the policy to keep 1 per cent of the project cost aside for highway plantation and its maintenance.

This will generate employment for around 500,000 people in rural areas.

This also involves developing roadside amenities. The idea is to provide dignified employment to local people and communities. This will also help in fighting pollution.

In any case, all policies will be decided by the next government. The consent of the ministry of finance and other ministries is also necessary.

The prime minister took a meeting recently and he asked for suggestions and ideas for a plan till 2047. We're all discussing this.

Whatever the consensus on this, the government will do.

IMAGE: Gadkari, right, with Devendra Fadnavis, another BJP leader from Nagpur, at an election roadshow in Nagpur. Photograph: ANI Photo

You are passionate about the electric-vehicle ecosystem. But there are doubts about this too.

This is my unambiguous mission. It is not just about liberating the country from pollution.

It is also to remove the burden of the Rs 16 trillion bill on account of oil import. I'm not saying it is easy. But it has to be done.

I am working to ensure the acceptability of EVs increases. This means encouraging catalysers and pumps and also use of compressed natural and ethanol.

We are discussing this globally also: At the G20 we had extensive discussions on this.

In our country, agriculture is contributing to developing aviation fuel.

Rural agricultural economists are highly enamoured of the idea.

Do you feel you've left some things incomplete?

No work is ever complete. When you complete something, it is the start of something else that is unfinished. And the people's expectations also rise.

The more you work, the more work you create for yourself because people want more.

In Nagpur, you can see the changes that have come about in the past 10 years.

Don't ask me. Ask the people how the city has changed, how much it has grown.

Only the person who does the work knows how much more can be done.

Will India ever get a prime minister from Vidarbha?

Which region, language, or religion a prime minister belongs to -- this is not an appropriate thing to ask. A prime minister should take the country forward.

And in this context, a prime minister's region, caste, religion, gender, language ... all this should not be a factor at all.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
Aditi Phadnis
Source: source
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024