Nagpur: You look back on Nagpur happenings of the last few years, controversy and all, and just one man stands head and shoulders taller than anyone else in public life – it is no other than Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.
We know calling him a ‘Nagpur Man’ is like putting a large Picasso painting in a miniature frame or turning a towering Banyan tree that has set down a hundred aerial roots into an elegant bonsai banyan but that is not the point of this piece.
Gadkari might not be solely of Nagpur, or Vidarbha or even Maharashtra any more but we cannot think of a Nagpur without him! Love him or hate him, you cannot do away with him.
And we in Nagpur know – many have tried it in the past. Tragically, even people from his own party, the BJP. After having been a successful National President of the party in 2012, his chances of having a second term as President were sabotaged by some Delhi based ‘leaders’ – one of whom has not won a single election on his own popular base.
When he was packed off to his hometown when he was about to go on a whirlwind election campaigning tour by none other than a RSS leader Soni and 2 BJP heavy weights anyone would have thought it was the end of Gadkari, the politician.
“Poster chipkane wale ko laaye the Nagpur se party president banane, woh khud hi poster ban gaya,” ridiculed a party leader, referring to the days when a young Gadkari used to stick posters and distribute pamphlets for the RSS in Nagpur.
Even his mentors in the RSS had not stood by him, as reported by the national media.
But this man is like the proverbial Phoenix who keeps rising from the Ashes – stronger and more formidable every time.
From a ‘defeated and corruption tainted’ figure to rise in two years to be hailed as the “Minister with the outstanding performance” from none other than P.M. Modi who bodes no competition on any front was sweet revenge indeed.
Known for taking his Ministers to task for dismal performances, Modi observed that ambitious projects, which were gathering dust for well over a decade, were completed by Gadkari within 15 months.
When portfolios had been distributed after Modi became P.M. many Gadkari supporters were disheartened that he had not go any of the top 3 positions: Home, Finance or Defense but had been allotted the ‘insignificant’ department of Transport and Shipping. With his sterling performance though he managed to portray it as the most happening portfolio.
When questioned about his laissez faire attitude in a TV channel interview Gadkari had replied simply ” I take praise and criticism both in my stride and never try to ‘market myself’. My work speaks for itself.”
As it had spoken for him when he had become PWD Minister in the first BJP-Shiv Sena government of Maharashtra during 1995 – 1999. He, a Nagpurian from the old part of the city Mahal and a humble background, changed forever the look of Mumbai by building 54 flyovers to ease Mumbai congestion and bring faraway Vasi just 30 minutes away from South mumbai earning him the fond sobriquet ‘Highway Man’ from grateful Mumbaikars.
Not only that, he managed to execute the ambitious Mumbai- Pune Expressway getting private enterprise to fund it.
This karma yogi has as expected thrown his weight behind the development of his hometown Nagpur ever since we sent him to Delhi as BJP’s second elected M.P. from the city.
Whether it is the landmark Orange City Waterworks that has made Nagpur the first Indian city to get 24*7 water supply; or the Nagpur metro, or MIHAN coming out of deep coma – you see Gadkari’s influence if not active participation.
You may not agree with some decisions like granting land cheap to Ramdevbaba’s Patanjali in MIHAN or privatization of a natural resource like water but you can never accuse him of being ineffective or not exerting for Nagpur. If and when Nagpur succeeds in becoming a Smart city it will be mainly due to Gadkari bullying it into becoming one!!
At a Smart City conclave in the city just a few days ago, Gadkari is said to have blasted BJP Corporators and NMC office bearers for not doing enough to make Nagpur a smart city despite being in power for 3 terms.
He held up the example of weekly vegetable markets which are unique to Nagpur still being held in an unorganized way.
In the past he has criticized Nagpur builders for keeping cost of real estate high and making it beyond the reach of middle class citizens of the city.
If you want anything done in Nagpur you cannot get away from the fact that Gadkari is the man to approach, though he is no part of Maharashtra government. Because we know that many Vidarbha leaders who enjoy cabinet posts in Fadnavis’ state government owe allegiance and their place in politics to him. In fact he is popular with not just BJP politicians but local politicians of all hues and ideologies.
In fact, even when things do not happen, people look to him – like the leaders of the separate Vidarbha movement! Otherwise what was the logic behind their sitting on dharna outside his house for Vidarbha??
Nagpur in the past too has given many state and Central leaders to Mumbai/ Delhi. Some have been Chief Ministers, others Central Ministers or Chairpersons of important statutory bodies or presidents of political parties.
Gadkari is different from them all in a significant way. The charms of Mumbai or the Power of Delhi haven’t seduced him away from Nagpur.
Call it the RSS influence or his strong moorings to the city, Gadkari will always be Our Man from Wada in Mahal!
If Nagpur is called the heart of India, Gadkari is at the heart of Nagpur and it is where his own heart lies.
Go Man go…make Nagpur buzz! If not you then who??
—Sunita Mudaliar (Associate Editor)