All Eyes on Gadkari As Attack Sharpens on Modi-Shah
Udhav Thackeray echoes Congress ‘chowkidar chor hai’ slogan
NEW DELHI: Some might accuse the normally reticent Union Minister and former BJP President Nitin Gadkari of verbal diarrhoea, as his statement a day is out of sync with his usual quiet self. Seen as a happy, easy BJP leader with a straight line to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh headquarters at Nagpur, Gadkari’s every word is now making the news and striking new unease in those close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.
Although almost every salvo is followed by an explanation the frequency of the one line statements is now making the retractions redundant. Latest came while delivering the 31st Intelligence Bureau endowment lecture at Vigyan Bhawan where he told the gathering of sleuths that the party leadership was responsible when MPs and MLAs failed to perform.
“If one looks closely, the success of the Home Ministry today is because of their trained and skilled IAS and IPS officers. Proper training is the most important part. I believe that overall, majority of the IPS, IAS officers are clean and do a good job but if I am the party president, and my MPs and MLAs are not doing well then who is responsible?” asked the Transport Minister deadpan. Who indeed?
It is not a coincidence that Gadkari has broken relative silence to speak about party issues after the BJP suffered a defeat in the three Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The Citizen had detailed it in a first report on the new plan by the RSS in https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/2/15808/RSS-Plan-B-for-2019-Lok-Sabha-Polls-Gadkari-Instead-of-Modi.
This statement to the IB gathering is in quick succession to Gadkari’s assertion a couple of days ago where he had again questioned the party leadership. “Party leadership should own up to defeat and failures..Nobody is willing to take responsibility of failure, unlike successes:, he said. And then later made it “clear” in an explanation that “conspiracies to create a wedge between me and the BJP leadership will never succeed.”
This was after both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah failed to turn up at the BJP parliamentary party meeting after the debacle.
Gadkari stands out as he is the only senior BJP Minister questioning the post poll silence. And stating what many in the party feel but are too fearful to say, that the party leadership cannot get away from its responsibility when legislators do not perform well. In any field. Other senior ministers like Home Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj have chosen to remain silent on all matters of government outside their direct jurisdiction and the functioning of the party.
The Transport Minister has acquired the reputation of being business friendly as his recent remark on Vijay Mallya indicates."40 saal Mallya regular payment kar raha tha, byaaj bhar raha tha. 40 saal baad jab wo aviation mein gaya....uske baad wo adchan mein aaya to woh ekdum chor ho gaya?...jo pachaas saal byaaj bharta hai wo theek hai, par ek baar wo default ho gaya...toh turant sab fraud ho gaya? Ye mansikta theek nahi hai."
(For 40 years Mallya was regularly paying interest on loans. After entering the aviation sector, he started facing problems, and suddenly he became a thief? If a person repays the interest for 50 years, and if he defaults once, then suddenly everything is fraud? This mindset is not correct), Mr Gadkari said at an economic summit organised by a media group).
Of course later he said his remarks were taken out of context, and he was not supporting Mallya, and that the law should take its course. But this did not take away from the definitiveness of the above remarks.
Significantly there is not a word from PM Modi or Shah about Gadkari’s remarks. No meetings that at least have come out in the open, and no counter from the two leaders who do not tolerate dissent, or even mild criticism. Gadkari is not speaking at obscure events --the last two were a big media function and a meeting of the Intelligence Bureau top shots and others----where his remarks are noted and reported and of course discussed.
He is not alone in his criticism with ally Shiv Sena now increasing the decibels. Shiv Sena chief Udhav Thackeray who has been targeting both PM Modi and Shah has now joined the Congress in reiterating Rahul Gandhi’s ‘chowkidar chor hai’ slogan but on the issue of farmers and not Rafale. Addressing a rally in Solapur district Thackeray narrated the story of a farmer who showed him a pest-infested lime tree saying this was a first in his experience to which he responded in Marathi with "Halli paharekarich chorya karaylaa laagale aahet”(Today security persons themselves have become thieves).
Interestingly, the BJP is completely silent on the developments, Opposition leaders who are keenly watching the developments told The Citizen, “well it seems the action has shifted to within the BJP. Let us see where this goes.” A senior MP said that the silence of the top leaders shows that Gadkari has support, and added with a laugh, “and who knows perhaps all the silent ones there are enjoying it.”