Do the corruption charges against him make any difference to Nitin Gadkari’s standing in Maharashtra politics? Not really, say BJP members and Marathi journalists in Mumbai. Ashish Dixit, deputy news editor, IBN Lokmat, points out, “There is sympathy for Gadkari in this region. In areas like Pune, he is extremely popular for the work he has done as PWD minister. People remember him for the construction of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.”
Yet, there’s no denying that the series of charges reflect a tad poorly on the president of the national opposition party. The continuous spotlight on Gadkari and his business deals has left his arch-rival in Maharashtra—BJP leader Gopinath Munde—rather pleased. Munde, though, has held his silence on the issue. As an aide confides, “He is not interested.” “But,” he goes on to add, “the differences between him and Gadkari are well-known.”
Political pundits point out that while the stakes for the BJP might be high in Delhi, the party is only in fourth place in Maharashtra, below the Congress, NCP and the Shiv Sena. That by itself limits the role the allegations against Gadkari play in Maharashtra politics. A close aide of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray explains, “If the issue was big here, Balasaheb would have spoken about it in the Dussehra rally. The fact that Nitin Gadkari did not even find a mention in his speech goes to show how little Gadkari or the BJP matter in the larger picture of state politics.”
Others point out that the more compelling tussle in the state right now is the one between the Congress and NCP, both looking at each other as immediate competitors. This is why Ajit Pawar is busy holding rallies across the state, directly targeting the Congress and its policies, while the Congress is leaving no stone unturned to criticise the NCP. The BJP is not a top-of-the-mind concern, although the many financial skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard of the rss’s blue-eyed boy does make for tantalising news.