BJP leader and Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari is an incorrigible talker. Despite many controversies over his straight-talking, the former BJP president hasn’t learnt to pick his words and phrases carefully. He has often belted out loaded statements that he either didn’t intend the way they appeared to the world or didn’t care about.
On Saturday, Nitin Gadkari again said something that raised eyebrows. “I would rather jump into a well than join Congress,” he declared to a roomful of entrepreneurs.
The Union Minister was recently dropped by the BJP from its two top bodies, the parliamentary board and the Central Election Committee, leading to speculation that he is not on the same page as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, who, many inferred, had effectively clipped Nitin Gadkari’s wings.
Incidentally, Nitin Gadkari hasn’t made the “jump into a well” comment for the first time. As he himself said, his statement was in response to late Congress leader Shrikant Jichkar’s comment – “You are the right man in the wrong party”.
What Shrikant Jichkar had said to Nitin Gadkari applied to him as well. Shrikant Jichkar, who brought the controversial concept of “Zero Budget” in Maharashtra as its Finance Minister, was perhaps the most educated politician in the country. Between his MBBS, MD and IAS, he had 20 other university degrees in various subjects across different faculties of studies and was a topper in many of them.
Tragically, Shrikant Jichkar died in a road accident in 2004.
Had he been alive, he, too, could well have been seen by the BJP as the Right Man in the Wrong Party (assuming he remained in the Congress). He used to deliver lectures on the Ramayan, Mahabharat and other ancient Hindu scriptures and had a good knowledge of Sanskrit.
For this reason, even the RSS liked him. He considered late RSS ideologue MG Vaidya as his guru and it was Vaidya who solemnised his marriage.
Nitin Gadkari is also known to be close to NCP chief Sharad Pawar and considers the Maratha strongman his guru.
So, when Shrikant Jichkar said to Nitin Gadkari he was the Right Man in the Wrong Party, Gadkari could have returned the compliment.
But in the statement Nitin Gadkari did make to Shrikant Jichkar and continues to even now, there is a part that he never says out loud. “I would rather jump into a well than join the Congress” can’t be a standalone statement. The unsaid part of this sentence could well be, “…even if I have to quit the BJP (or even the RSS).” At least if we look at the last couple of years.
Seen in this light, if anyone infers that his relations with the BJP have gone sour in the last two years, Nitin Gadkari himself is responsible for that inference.
Nitin Gadkari often says things that he may not have intended in the way the people perceived it.
He would do well to recollect another controversial statement he made, comparing the IQs of Swami Vivekanand and terrorist Dawood Ibrahim. He had said at Bhopal in 2012 that IQs of Vivekanand and Dawood were almost similar but their directions in life were so different.
This provoked a huge backlash; even the RSS called it a wrong comparison.
But he also often says things that can have no other meaning than the one he conveys through his choice of language.
In 2010, Nitin Gadkari had said that RJD leader Lalu Yadav and SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav roared outside like lions but later bowed down like dogs and licked the boots of Sonia Gandhi and the Congress.
After a backlash, Nitin Gadkari retracted his words and said he didn’t mean any offence to anyone.
He had recently said politics has been reduced to a game of power-grabbing instead of being an instrument of socio-economic change. This hasn’t apparently gone down well with the party.
The obvious question is – why did Nitin Gadkari have to make this “jump into a well” statement at a non-political event for small entrepreneurs? Is it that he can’t resist showing his displeasure at what the party did to him over the last few years? He will not join the Congress. Got it. But is he cut up with the BJP or is that something in the offing?
When does one jump into the well? Obviously, when one is frustrated with life. Does Nitin Gadkari feel that in his political life? Is it possible that he might feel, or is feeling, suffocated in the BJP and even in the RSS that is helplessly watching his humiliation in the party?
The questions would not have been necessary, had Nitin Gadkari said something like, “The question of joining Congress doesn’t arise. I am a pucca RSS swayamsevak. I would rather quit politics than betray the RSS.”
Clearly, all’s not well when it ends in a “jump into a well” remark.
P.S. In a state of perpetual decay, Congress now holds no water in its political well, so to speak. Even if Gadkari were to plunge into it, he would end up hitting the rock bottom.
(Vivek Deshpande worked with The Indian Express and is now a freelance writer.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.