The party and the shadow

The BJP, for once, would like to thank the ruling UPA. The income tax department's action against Nitin Gadkari's firms ended up achieving, if inadvertently, what BJP veterans, including former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, and some from the RSS, had failed to.

Gadkari was a power point-happy technocrat, comfortable in the company of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. After all, he was one himself. An upper-caste Brahmin from Nagpur, Gadkari's moment of fame came when as Maharashtra's PWD minister during the Shiv Sena-BJP rule (1995-99), he did the unthinkable. Gadkari took on the likes of Pramod Mahajan and Bal Thackeray, who were in favour of handing over the project of the construction of India's first autobahn, the Mumbai-Pune expressway, to a powerful industrial group. Gadkari, instead, devised a unique model that helped raise the state's first super-fast highway at half the cost, besides building as many as 55 flyovers in Mumbai.

During those four years incidentally, his only brush with power so far Gadkari was a man in a hurry. For, he knew this was the opportunity to showcase his abilities and create a space for himself, which otherwise, thanks to his caste, was not so easy. Gadkari was successful in this endeavour and created an image in the minds of upwardly mobile urban middle-class voters, especially Brahmins, who viewed him as "their man". But it also created an arguably misleading impression about his leadership abilities.

Gadkari was no mass leader, or a strategist. His only strength: a strong bond with the RSS. Then why did the Sangh Parivar choose him to lead their political outfit? Gadkari grew in stature only after the untimely exit of another Brahmin leader from the state who went on to attain national stature, Pramod Mahajan. Unlike Gadkari, Mahajan was quick to grasp the political dynamics. He grew fast enough to leave the RSS behind. Mahajan, many may recall, in his later days, was not exactly in the good books of the RSS. He seemed to underline all the ills generally associated with politics.

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