Does senior party leader’s attack on Modi has the blessings of India’s RSS?

S. N. M. Abdi
S. N. M. Abdi
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Nitin Gadkari, a powerful minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, is taking potshots at Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah acutely embarrassing both even as the party is licking its wounds after its defeat in as many as five states ahead of next year’s general elections.

Until the poll debacle, targeting Modi and Shah so openly was inconceivable. Gadkari’s sniping is linked to what many see as Plan B of the Rashytriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the ideological fountainhead of the Hindu Right – to explore an alternative to Modi in case the BJP emerges as the single largest party in the 2019 elections but with considerably reduced numbers and its allies insist on replacing Modi with a more acceptable BJP leader to head the coalition government.

Gadkari, 61, is publicly criticizing Modi’s failure to deliver on his poll promises and Shah’s faltering organizational and leadership abilities manifested in the string of losses in the latest round of state elections – without naming either.

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“Sapne dikhane wale logon ko achchhe lagte hai, par dikhaye hue sapne jab pure nahi hote hai to un netaon ki log pitai bhi karte hain (People love those who spin dreams but if those dreams are not fulfilled, those leaders are thrashed by the people),” declared Gadkari smiling from ear to ear amid the gloom of defeat in five states.

It was interpreted as a jibe at Modi who promised Achchhe din, or “good days” if the BJP was voted to power but the slogan has become an albatross around his neck as people’s expectations are unfulfilled and their anger is showing.

Gadkari has also pinned down Shah for not taking the responsibility for defeats in recent state elections, announcing: “If I am the party president and my MLAs (members of legislative assembly) are not doing well, my MPs (members of Parliament) are not performing, who is responsible? I am.”

Studied silence

Shah and Modi are known to quickly take credit for wins, though. Modi maintained a studied silence after the results, apart from a brief tweet — “We accept the people’s mandate with humility…” Equally evasive, Shah merely said that the losses will not impact the coming general elections.

Gadkari is firing all his salvos from high profile events so that they reverberate across the length and breadth of the country courtesy the print and electronic media. National dailies are not only printing his remarks on page one but editorials too are being written to underline their importance.

Gadkari’s attacks are significant because of his credentials. He is from Nagpur where the RSS is headquartered and is a known RSS favourite. He is a former BJP president putting him in a different league. In the current regime, he is cabinet Minister for Road Transport & Highways and figures among the top five along with Modi, Shah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

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But he is not abrasive or abusive. He is on excellent terms with smaller parties in the NDA stable. He has received ‘thank you’ notes from opposition leaders ranging from Sonia Gandhi to Arvind Kejriwal for his respectful gestures. And last but not least, corporate India seems to have has faith in Gadkari.

Gadkari’s criticism of the concentration of power in Modi-Shh’s hands has many takers. The Telegraph’s Sankarshan Thakur told Al Arabiya English: “Power in India is invariably centralized. The Congress has its high command; the Communist Party of India (Marxist) its politburo, and the BJP its duopoly of Messrs Modi and Shah. One of the ironies of democratic India is the undemocratic edifices of its political parties.”

Only time will tell whether Gadkari’s is trying to settle personal scores with Modi and Shah – the two don’t miss any opportunity to belittle him for slights they were reportedly subjected to when he called the shots as party president – or he is gunning for them with the blessings of the RSS which has smelt the coffee.

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