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Big birthday bash for Nitin Gadkari as development icon in Nagpur today

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-05-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Nagpur: Politicians cutting across parties, celebrities, and important personalities from different walks of life will gather in Nagpur on Saturday evening to join the birthday celebrations of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Union minister for road transport, highways, and shipping Nitin Gadkari. Gadkari turned 60 today.

A birthday celebration reception committee under Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has made elaborate arrangements for an opulent show at Nagpur’s Kasturchand Park where BJP president Amit Shah and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar will join others in wishing Gadkari. Gadkari is also the Member of Parliament from Nagpur which also houses the headquarters of BJP’s ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS).

On this occasion, Gadkari will be presented with a cheque for Rs1.01 crore, an amount which has been collected from all BJP MPs and state legislators from Maharashtra. Gadkari would donate this amount to more than 100 charity organisations, said Maharashtra energy minister and Nagpur district’s guardian minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule. The stage specially raised for the public celebration symbolically reflects Gadkari’s work as a development icon— with replicas of flyovers and bridges, expressways, ships, ports, and sugar cane farms to symbolise Gadkari’s thrust on sugar cane by-products such as ethanol as bio-fuel.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar, former Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra industry minister Subhash Desai, and politicians from other parties, will share the stage with spiritual guru and Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravishankar and three BJP chief ministers including Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh apart from Fadnavis.

Nagpur, the city which bears imprint of Gadkari’s work as public works minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra during 1995-99 and also as the current Union minister, is replete with huge Gadkari cut-outs and birthday posters which bear a testimony to the BJP leader’s over-arching influence in sectors like politics, industry, agriculture, charity, and co-operative banking. Gadkari started off as an RSS volunteer and later joined the its student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) like many of his contemporaries. In 2014, he won his first direct election which was also only the second time a BJP nominee was elected from Nagpur, historically a Congress bastion. Before he became MP, Gadkari had several terms as the member of the Maharashtra legislative council, the upper house in Maharashtra’s bicameral legislature. He represented the graduates’ constituency in the legislative council. The birthday celebrations will also underline the important role played by Gadkari, a Brahmin, in establishing the BJP in Vidarbha region, historically a Congress stronghold that the BJP has conquered, as a preferred political choice for traditionally non-Brahmin castes like Other Backward Classes (OBC), Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes.

A BJP minister in Maharashtra who is closely involved in the preparations said on the condition of anonymity that Pawar was “the preferred choice of Gadkari himself” for the birthday celebration. “Nitinji considers Pawar saheb a sort of political guru and his career is largely modelled on Pawar saheb’s political life. Like Pawar saheb, Nitinji has used politics as a means to serve a social purpose and politics of development has been the common theme in their careers. Pawar saheb is very fond of Nitinji and there is no other senior politician from a rival party who has Pawar saheb’s stature,” said the BJP minister.

Like Pawar, Gadkari has also been on good terms with Sushil Kumar Shinde. Gadkari was the leader of the opposition in Maharashtra legislative council when Shinde was the chief minister of Maharashtra in the Congress-NCP government.

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