Modi 3.0 Cabinet | Nitin Gadkari Retains Ministry Of Road Transport And Highways

Gadkari in the recent Lok sabha elections contested from Nagpur Constituency, Maharashtra, with a margin around 1.37 lakh votes against Congress’ Vikas Thakre.

Nitin Gadkari, a key BJP leader, took oath as a Union Cabinet Minister in the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has retained the Minister of Road Transport and Highways in the Modi 3.0 cabinet.

Gadkari in the recent Lok sabha elections contested from Nagpur Constituency, Maharashtra, with a margin around 1.37 lakh votes against Congress’ Vikas Thakre. In 2014, Gadkari defeated veteran Congress leader Vilas Muttemwar, while in the 2019 polls, he defeated Congress candidate Nana Patole. He has also been the longest-serving minister for road transport & highways.

Gadkari’s Journey

In recent years, Nitin Gadkari, the union cabinet minister for roads, has been on the rise. From the relative obscurity of the Maharashtra legislative council, Gadkari won a parliamentary election from Maharashtra’s Nagpur constituency in 2014, which is also home to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s headquarters. He subsequently became the prime minister Narendra Modi’s transport tsar, consolidating most ministerial portfolios pertaining to the field.

For the upcoming Lok Sabha election, the Bharatiya Janata Party has again fielded Gadkari as its candidate from the Nagpur constituency. In “Son of The Sangh,” the cover story from The Caravan’s April 2018 issue, Praveen Donthi found that Gadkari is the RSS’s “favourite son.” This has caused considerable friction with the prime minister, who is known for not abiding parallel power structures.

The following excerpt from Donthi’s story chronicles how Modi stalled both his aspirations to become the chief minister of Maharashtra, as well as his ambitions to reap political capital from his important portfolios. He also reported how Gadkari is one of the only members of the union cabinet who does not fear the wrath of the prime minister, and hopes to succeed him once Modi mania fades away.

On 26 July 2014, two months after Narendra Modi became the prime minister, the Sunday Guardian broke a story that sophisticated listening devices had been found in the official residence of Nitin Gadkari, a minister in Modi’s cabinet. The newspaper, closely aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party, cited an anonymous source saying that the devices had been planted by US intelligence, and Subramanian Swamy, a member of parliament with the newly ruling BJP, alleged that the bugging had been done under the previous, Congress-led government.

Gadkari himself, in a tweet the next morning, called the story “highly speculative,” but stopped short of dismissing it outright. In parliament, opposition parties called for a probe and a statement from the prime minister, disrupting proceedings for two days. The home minister, Rajnath Singh, denied the story, but this did not dissuade them. It was a strange situation: the opposition was protesting the surveillance of a ruling minister, while members of the ruling party seemed too scared to speak up.

Gadkari categorically denied the story only on the second day after it appeared. According to a piece in Outlook magazine about a month later, Mohan Bhagwat—the head of the BJP’s political parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, who has long been close to Gadkari—had intervened to ask him “to deny the snooping incident in public, suggesting that it would dent the image of the BJP and the prime minister.”

In Nagpur, the RSS’s home, the accepted truth is that Gadkari is the organisation’s favourite son. This was affirmed in 2009, when he was made the youngest ever national president of the BJP to the great displeasure of the party’s senior leaders in Delhi, and again in 2012, when the party’s constitution was amended to allow him a second term—although that term never came to pass, after allegations surfaced that the Congress-led government in Maharashtra had handed some hundred acres of agricultural land it had ostensibly acquired for a dam to businesses connected to Gadkari. In the 2014 general election, he represented the BJP in Nagpur despite a lack of prior electoral success, and was voted into the Lok Sabha. When Modi formed his government, Gadkari was given charge of two ministries: the ministry of road transport and highways—coveted since it handles massive, money-spinning infrastructure projects, and since the roads it builds serve as advertisements for its work—as well as the ministry of shipping. In 2017, he also took charge of the ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation. Even as Modi has zealously centralised control, running almost all ministries through his own office, Gadkari has held on to power in his own, and used it to deliver visible results. This makes him an exception in the Modi cabinet—a minister who is doing well and being noticed for it, and cannot easily be undermined. “Most ministers are wary that the PM is watching,” a lobbyist for numerous large corporations told me. “He is not scared, because of the RSS’s backing. He might be respectful of the PM, but not fearful.”

Key Highlights And Achievments

Born into a Marathi family, he worked for the Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha and the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishan during his teenage years and completed his M.Com and LLB at Nagpur University.

Served as the state president of BJP in Maharashtra and was the Minister of Public Works Department in the Maharashtra Government from 1995 to 1999 where he completely overhauled the department and was instrumental in fast-tracking the construction of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

A great supporter of privatisation, he frequently engaged with private firms for investments in infrastructure and privatised many projects, including the construction of all-weather roads in Maharashtra and connected thousands of villages which helped alleviate malnutrition and provide medical services to several districts in the state.

Heralded for the construction of over 55 flyovers in Mumbai which eased the city’s traffic congestion issues.

Appointed as the President of BJP in 2009 where he was tasked with revamping the party’s fortunes after 2 successive losses in the Lok Sabha elections.

Co-authored a book, India Aspires, where he outlines his development ideas for the country in detail, including support for alternate fuels, green energy, and waste management

As Minister of Road Transport and Highways, he greatly increased the pace of India’s road construction from 2km/day to over 68km/day and promoted the development of hydrogen fuel cells for clean mobility.