To fight the next elections Gadkari has now to train a whole new team of all-India status who can beat the Congress at its game. And he must develop a Vision Statement commanding not only attention but wholesome respect. It makes no sense to flog a dead horse. Every idea has its allotted life-span, whether it is socialism, nationalisation of industries, garibi hatao, Hindutva or whatever.
THE Big Question today—indeed since Nitin Gadkari took over as President of the Bharatiya Janata Party replacing Rajnath Singh—is whether he can, in the end, revive the party which is now apparently in the doldrums and make it a force to reckon with. The answer is a plain and simple Yes, he can. And that is not just a matter of hope over doubt. There are adequate reasons to believe he can resuscitate the party. In the first place he is young. He is just 52, Jawaharlal Nehru became president of the Congress for the first time in 1929 when he was just 40. But then he had the support of not just his father, Motilal Nehru who was powerful enough, but of Mahatma Gandhi himself, who was then king-maker. Jawaharlal had an additional qualification: he had glamour, not just as the son of a distinguished Allahabad lawyer but as one who studied in England which placed him above ordinary human beings.
Gadkari is not even a student of an Indian Public School, let alone a graduate from Oxford or Harvard. But that is to his advantage. He represents aam aadmi and not the effete elite. Besides, his qualifications are impressive. Apart from being an M Com and an LLB, he can claim to have vast administrative experience as a former Minister for Public Works in the Maharashtrian Government and an active member of several important committees. Even more relevantly he has a well-earned reputation of being incorruptible. Certainly, there is not a whiff of scandal against him, he has no competition in his field. There are three candidates who could—and ultimately may—challenge him. Narendra Modi, for One; Arun Jaitley for another and last but not least, Sushma Swaraj. And from the Congress he will have to reckon with Rahul Gandhi who is fast maturing and can offer him stiff competition at the hustings. Rahul, indeed, is showing himself as one who can think out-of-the box and he can prove to be a man to watch. Gadkari has to bear this in mind.
By the time the next General Elections take place Gadkari has to prove himself that he can take on anybody in the Congress—or any other—party. He has some three to four years to hone his leadership talents. In the first place he has to prove that he is not just an RSS worker with no high educational background. Here he can beat Rahul hollow. Not only is he a post-graduate in commerce with additionally a law degree and a diploma in Business Management to boot, he has stakes in a sugar factory, an ethanol blending plant of 1.2 lakh litres capacity, in a 20 MW power captive generation unit, a soya bean plant and co-generation energy plant. That is something of a record. Obviously he is a self-made man and not dependent on ancestral fortunes. To the struggling youth, he can be an icon. In sheer terms of industrial management Rahul cannot hold a candle to Gadkari. But are these qualifications enough to turn the party’s fortunes in the next general elections?
There are some things he has to act upon at his earliest. One of them is to make an extensive tour of the country to make his position felt. But then what would he be speaking about ? Hindutva? Is that relevant in today’s context? Corruption? With the BJP supporting Shibu Soren as Chief Minister of Jharkhand, a man with a not-so-happy reputation, Gadkari has to be doubly careful. Does the BJP have any clear idea concerning re-organisation of states? Would he publicly support the creation of Telangana or the trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh or even the separation of Vidharbha from the parent State of Maharashtra?
He has called on Shiv Sena’s leader Bal Thackeray to pay his respects to the ageing leader who has been demanding introduction of a “license system” for “outsiders” to enter Mumbai to mitigate problems facing the local population and a more atrocious and anti-national demand cannot be imagined. Will Gadkari go along with it? Will Gadkari compromise on such an issue? Compromise now seems to be the name of the game, and sadly, in the pursuit of power, values are given the go-by. The BJP’s support to Shibu Soren has apparently not been taken kindly by some sections of the BJP and quite rightly so. Shibu Soren has scandals attached to his name and he should have been held at arm’s length and not embraced. One thing friends of the BJP would not like to see is transformation of the party as a replica of the Congress, with nothing to show that it has its distinct characteristics, by which it will stand or fall. Ad hoc-ism is not a quality that commands respect.
Can Gadkari think of plans and projects that will attract the attention and loyalty of thousands, especially the young? Gadkari believes that Narendra Modi is a role model. Can his services be used in a more meaningful way? Gadkari himself has shown himself to be an able administrator. Can he make that as the party’s selling point? We have noticed that old values are fading out as in the instance of linguistic division of states. Has Gadkari a more sensible substitute that can win him the applause of the multitudes? Congress leaders are all ageing. By the time the next general elections take place the Manmohan Singhs, the AK Antonys, the Pranab Mukherjees and a whole lot of others will be out.
To fight the next elections Gadkari has now to train a whole new team of all-India status who can beat the Congress at its game. And he must develop a Vision Statement commanding not only attention but wholesome respect. It makes no sense to flog a dead horse. Every idea has its allotted life-span, whether it is socialism, nationalisation of industries, garibi hatao, Hindutva or whatever. Gadkari has to bring a whiff of fresh air in the country, think of new ideas appropriate for the times and which will have across-the-board, appeal to the largest number of people. That does not mean that old ideas valid for all times, have to be thrown out of the window. They will remain the bedrock of the BJP.
But we have to move with the times, and the BJP should show itself to be ahead of the Congress in every field. The BJP should prove itself to be dynamic, idea-rich and forward-looking and any day a match to the Congress. That it can. India is on its way to be a Great Power and that Gadkari should always keep in mind and frame his ideas accordingly. There are moments in history when change becomes imperative. Tennyson said it all when he wrote: “The old order changeth, yielding place to new and God fulfils himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world”. As any politician should know, the only thing permanent in life is: change.