When Nitin Gadkari took over the reins of BJP from Rajnath Singh, the party was in disarray and searching for a leader who would unite the party after suffering a defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Eyebrows were raised when he was appointed the party president with many pointing his proximity with RSS as being one of the reasons for his rise to the top brass. Even though in his term the BJP hasn’t undergone any sea change, Gadkari has been able to arrest the slide.
In a candid chat with Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi, Nitin Gadkari speaks on his re-election as the party President for the second term, face of the party for 2012 General elections and his much talked about equation with Narendra Modi.
Here are the excerpts:
Swati: One of the biggest questions of your term remains unanswered-What is BJP? ‘Economists’ published a report on your party with the title ‘Big Joke Party’. How do you feel about that?
Gadkari: Media publishes all sorts of things about the parties. Some of them are a result of internal party discussions. However, our aim has been to project a united and democratic image of the party. It is not necessary that every decision will be accepted the same way by each and every member. There can be differences of opinion.
Swati: Your critics slam you for being autocratic. You seldom discuss anything with others before making a decision. The decision to field Babu Singh Kushwaha in UP elections, reinstating Sanjay Joshi and the controversies surrounding Anshuman Mishra and Ajay Sancheti has been the basis of their claims. Your take on the matter?
Gadkari: Let me start with Ajay Sancheti. His family has been working with RSS for a long time. He himself has been associated with the party for the past 20 years and has stood by the party in thick and thin. He is young and resourceful. His name was suggested by the party members only. While the decision to field Babu Singh Kushwaha was mine and I accept that. At that point no FIR was lodged against him. There was only one person among the 14 decision makers who opposed his nomination.
As for Anshuman Mishra, the allegations against him are baseless.
Swati: Speaking of Anshuman, the first voice of opposition came from one of the senior most members of your party, Yashwant Sinha. He said that people are now paying to buy seat in the party. How does that feel?
Gadkari: See, let me clarify one thing first, Anshuman hasn’t taken a rupee for a seat in the party. I know he wouldn’t have said that. He must have been quoted out of context. Nobody in our party has ever taken a rupee for a Rajya Sabha seat. If anyone has substantial evidence regarding it, then it should be proved in public.
Swati: BJP was once known for its discipline, but of late the recent developments have been very contradictory. Sushma Swaraj praising Congress after it suspended its members for causing a ruckus in Parliament over Telangana issue, when your own party supports the cause was a bit conflicting. Why this chaos?
Gadkari: I am not aware of what exactly Shushma ji said but am sure she won’t say anything against the party. She must have been misquoted. I also strongly believe that party members should stop speaking to the media to avoid stirring controversies. The spokesperson is there do to that job. We want to shed the tag of ‘fighting leaders’.
Swati: Your party has lost two General Elections under the leadership of LK Advani. Will you be pursuing with the same face in the next Lok Sabha elections, someone who has been rejected twice by the public?
Gadkari: Elections are in 2014. We will decide upon the leadership issue at the right time only. Even Congress is yet to decide on their leader.
Swati: Gujarat CM Narendra Modi has been your biggest asset and liability. You two do not seem to share a warm relationship.
Gadkari: Narendra Modi has been of the most successful Chief Ministers in India. The reports of a rift between us are baseless. When these came in the media, I personally called and spoke to him. Having said that, I must say not all of my decisions are going to be correct. We might have differences on various issues but they can be easily resolved. I am not happy with the way media portrayed it.
Swati: Are you angry with the media?
Gadkari: No, I am not. I only want responsibility. Whenever they claim something, it should be backed with substantial proof. Writing anything based on perception or without any ground knowledge is not good for the country or the society.
Adaptation: Feroz Khan