“I am nobody’s puppet and nor I have been sitting idle in the last six months. The BJP is much stronger today than when I took over,” said BJP President Nitin Gadkari, hitting back at critics in an exclusive interview with HT.
Denying that he is swayed or micro-managed by LK Advani or any senior leader, Gadkari said, “I can quote instances where I had to beg to differ with their views and do what’s best after convincing them. Neither Advaniji nor anyone has pushed me into doing anything. I have acted after I was convinced.”
Gadkari also defended his blunt style of talking, saying “the BJP needs to be aggressive now. Whether it’s price rice or terrorism, we’ve been too soft for too long. The cadres are enthused by what I have said”.
“Many people have come and told me that what I say about the Congress delaying the hanging of Afzal Guru (Parliament attack convict) is true.”
Gadkari said he wasn’t a RSS mascot either. “Everyone knows my nature. They knew me even before they chose me. I respect the ideology espoused by the Sangh. But when it comes to taking decisions of the BJP, I have acted in consultation with party leaders (and not the RSS).”
Disputing the charge that he has set the party drifting due to delay in taking decisions, Gadkari said, “I have to consult senior leaders and have to get to the root of any problem. You will see the result in 2014 (when the Lok Sabha polls are held).”
“I can’t go for a quick fix. Of the 180 days I have been in office, I have traveled to the nook and corner of the country to hear out our leaders and cadres.”
Gadkari said, “If I see rust settled on a structure, can I just do up the interiors to make it look it good?”
Asked about reports that the CBI was zeroing in some RSS functionaries for several blasts, he said, “Nothing substantial has come to light. We have nothing to hide. The RSS is also clear. After all, it’s said one of the groups wanted to eliminate even Mohan Bhagwatji.”
“We want action against all kinds of terrorism but a fair probe must precede any conclusion is drawn. There should be no witch-hunt for politics’ sake.”
Claiming a drop in infighting, the BJP chief cited numerous parleys that went into settling leadership issue in BJP units in Rajasthan, UP, Bihar and MP. “I can’t be beating my own drum to say I have solved issues of internal differences.”
The BJP chief said he had not given up on performance audit. “It will be applied to all BJP Ministers. Party-led governments will have to perform better every passing day.”
His priorities right now are elections in Bihar this year, followed by the ones to be held in West Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu next year, he said. “I am talking to all the allies. We have just cleared the air in our talks with the Janata Dal (U). I have begun talking to the allies like the Akali Dal and the INLD.”