INTERVIEW| Gadkari: Bal Thackeray loved me for work but won’t go to Uddhav ever

Union minister for road, transport and highways Nitin Gadkari, who is contesting Lok Sabha election for the third time from Nagpur — the headquarters of RSS — has opened up about his deep-rooted relationships with prominent political figures, particularly his bond with Bal Thackeray in Mahrashtra.  Reflecting on his journey alongside stalwarts like then Maharashtra CM Manohar Joshi, sitting Union minister Narayan Rane, and Gopinath Munde, Gadkari cherishes moments with Executive Editor Rohan Dua and invaluable lessons learned from the visionary leaders who shaped his path. 

| Updated: 08 April, 2024 5:45 pm IST

NAGPUR: Union minister for road, transport and highways Nitin Gadkari, who is contesting Lok Sabha election for the third time from Nagpur — the headquarters of RSS — has opened up about his deep-rooted relationships with prominent political figures, particularly his bond with Bal Thackeray in Mahrashtra. 

Reflecting on his journey alongside stalwarts like then Maharashtra CM Manohar Joshi, sitting Union minister Narayan Rane, and Gopinath Munde, Gadkari cherishes moments with Executive Editor Rohan Dua and invaluable lessons learned from the visionary leaders who shaped his path. 

 

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Rohan: Bal Thackeray was really close to you. He saw you as a close aide and a disciple. What was the bonding like?

Nitin Gadkari: First of all, I had the privilege to work with Manohar Joshi and Narayan Rane, the two former Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, as well as with Gopinath Munde. It was a beautiful period of my life to work with these people, and they all held me in high regard. Regarding Bal Thackeray, he also had a deep affection for me.

He had aspirations to see the Mumbai-Pune highway and the Worli-Bandra ceiling completed, and I fulfilled those projects. As I began my work, he recognised my capability to achieve significant milestones in life. He once wrote and handed me a note saying, “I like people who can get things done.” I still cherish that paper to this day. Balasaheb was a visionary leader with a generous heart, and he held great affection for me.

In my life, Atal Ji, Balasaheb, and George Fernandes hold a significant place. I’ve gleaned invaluable lessons from their words, actions, and character. It was indeed a golden period of my life, one I can never forget.

 

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Rohan Dua: You were quite young at the time, so it’s understandable how influential they were.

Nitin Gadkari: Despite my junior status, they all treated me with immense affection.

Rohan Dua: Yes, I remember seeing your picture with Balaji when we were kids and watching the event on Doordarshan.

Nitin Gadkari: Raj Thackeray created a movie about Balasaheb’s life. As a leader in the Shiv Sena, Balasaheb was asked by Raj to pose for a photo on a flyover. Balasaheb insisted that I join him in the photo, stating that he wouldn’t take it alone. So, I traveled from Nagpur to Delhi to stand beside him for that picture.

Rohan Dua: Almost 22 years later, when I see Uddhav Thackeray extending an invitation for you to join Shiv Sena (UBT), asking you to fight from our party, I find it fascinating, did you enjoy good relations with him?

Nitin Gadkari: I maintain good relations with everyone. It’s essential to remember that while politics may change and alliances may shift, personal relationships should remain intact. I’ve learned that regardless of political affiliations or the state of our parties’ relations, one should not let personal connections suffer.

We each operate by our political ethics, and while we may be contenders in the political arena, it’s crucial not to damage personal relationships. I’ve upheld this principle throughout my life, maintaining positive relations with everyone, including opponents across party lines. As Prime Minister Modi often says,sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka prayas.

 

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Rohan Dua: But given your jolly nature and humble demeanor, if you had joined their party, it would have been a feather in their cap.

Nitin Gadkari: Why should I go? RSS and BJP are integral parts of my life’s convictions. Always remember, between purse and person, the person is important, and between person and party, party holds importance and between party and philosophy, philosophy holds significance.

I’m not a professional politician; my ideology is my conviction: nationalism, good governance, development, and ‘antyodaya’. These are my convictions, and it’s for them that I entered politics. My dream isn’t merely to hold a prestigious office like MP or MLA; it’s to keep the dream of nationalism and development alive.

Rohan Dua: Speaking of Raj Thackeray, he recently visited Delhi and held a meeting with the BJP. Do you see any hope for an alliance now in Maharashtra for assembly elections or Lok Sabha?

Nitin Gadkari: I don’t have any information regarding that. Senior leaders like Nadda or Amit Shah would have better insights. I did have discussions with them, but they spoke with him directly.

 

 

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