Meet Nitin, from Nagpur
With an obscure Nitin Gadkari, the RSS wants to inject oxygen into a gasping BJP
Prabhat Sharan Mumbai
Put him in a halwai shop cash counter, his countenance would blend harmoniously with the surroundings. In other uncanny circumstances too, he can fit in effortlessly. And it is through this man as BJP chief - Nitin Gadkari - the RSS wants to inject oxygen into its gasping-for-breath political front, the BJP.
The old guards in RSS, through Gadkari, with one swift lassoing, not only brought a wayward BJP back into their fold, but also brought back the dominance of upper-caste Maharashtrian Brahmins which had been on wane for some time.
RSS roots can be traced back to the Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha. It had its origins in Maharashtra's Pune and Vidarbha region. The RSS headquarters, since inception, has always been located in Nagpur. Not an unusual choice for its progenitors since they were mainly from Maharashtra, like the propounder of Hindutva political theory, VD Savarkar. Almost its entire 'founding members' were from the upper-caste Brahmin community of Maharashtra. Indeed, if Nitin Gadkari's birth, social and hierarchical status, cleared him in the first round, his birthplace, Nagpur, cleared his second round.
Another crucial qualifying point that went in Gadkari's favour was that he had reportedly learnt in childhood a la modified Mussolini style salute very diligently. Apart from saluting everybody who is somebody in the RSS senior citizens' sanitorium, he always carried out their diktats with devout seriousness.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat amplified these qualifications to propel Gadkari, a failed state level leader, to a national chief of the party ahead of the usual favourites. The interplay of these three factors were so magnified that it glossed over the fact that Gadkari has never won any election in his entire political career nor does he have a mass base or any connect with the party's grassroot workers.
The reason behind this pole-vaulting lies in the taking over of the old men's club by the new RSS chief. Bhagwat hails from Chandrapur region, adjacent to Nagpur. Most senior RSS members are swimming in the twilight zone of their lives. They are foreseeing an ominous future of its political front. The think-tank has been noticing the gradual distancing of BJP leaders from the RSS life and blood tonic. The selection of Gadkari was done in this light. He is neither too senior like Arun Jaitley or Sushma Swaraj, nor has he celebrated a bloodbath like Narendra Modi.
Interestingly, Gadkari has an addiction. To see his name every day in the media. Soon after his first nomination to the Maharashtra Vidhan Parishad, in 1995, Gadkari never lost a chance in engineering news emanating from the upper house. Informing the reporters in advance, his gaze was always on the press gallery; he would raise questions only when reporters would troop in.
Any incident, any breaking news, any development, press notes from Gadkari in minutes would pop up. And with the Mumbai press saturated with journos from Nagpur, Gadkari's reactions, no matter how inane, would always get highlighted. Even his elevation to the top job in BJP has witnessed mushy reports glorifying him in sections of the Mumbai press.
There has been bad news also. For instance, the mysterious murder of seven-year-old Yogita Thakre, daughter of Gadkari's domestic help, in Nagpur. The child's smothered body was found inside Gadkari's car parked near his house in Nagpur. Also, the mysterious death of his personal secretary whose body was found beside the railway track at Deolali. The case was buried.
The news of the fine imposed on him by the Bombay High Court for not being able to prove his allegations against former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was downplayed. While BJP's two seats edge over Shiv Sena in the state elections were highlighted, the dismal performance of the party under his tenure as the state BJP chief was never analysed.
Being pally with the press helped him to focus on the failure of Uddhav Thackeray and a dying Shiv Sena in the state elections. Gadkari, who managed to oust rival Gopinath Munde in the leadership race, has an overt detestation for Bal Thackeray and Uddhav.
Political analysts feel that Gadkari's liking for MNS leader Raj Thackeray indicates that RSS will gradually forge ties with the MNS. Since MNS's rabid ideology converges with RSS's own fanaticism, the Sangh Parivar has set it eyes to grab youngsters from this set-up and use them as foot-soldiers, as they had used the Shiv Sena cadre earlier. Maybe Bhagwat had pondered over this dark twist also, while giving a face to a faceless man.