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Gadkari's coat of sugar to UP poll

As he takes complete charge of the BJP's campaign in UP, party chief Nitin Gadkari is trying to sell his own success story of running sugar cooperatives in Maharashtra's Vidarbha in the northern state's backward districts. Shekhar Iyer reports.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2012 01:24 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times

As he takes complete charge of the BJP’s campaign in UP, party chief Nitin Gadkari is trying to sell his own success story of running sugar cooperatives in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha in the northern state’s backward districts.

On a tour of Gonda and Basti districts, Gadkari frankly admits he is new to UP but offers lessons he learnt while handling the problems of Maharashtra’s sugarcane growers.

“What we did in Vidarbha can be done here, too,” he says.

Gadkari packages his speech at elections meetings with how his Rs 500-crore Purti group took up sugarcane farming and sugar production and utilised the by-products to produce power and ethanol. He adds how he has been lobbying hard with PM Manmohan Singh for the use of ethanol as a blending ingredient in petroleum fuels. His aim is to reduce the large-scale import of petroleum products by using 10-20% of ethanol in petrol and diesel so that this saved outflow to foreign countries will go to farmers even in UP.

He believes the BJP has got the basics right this time — by picking the right candidates and "right issues", which, according to him, are related to development instead of aggressive rhetoric on Ram rajya and Ram temple. Barring senior BJP leaders Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, who are out intensively campaigning in the state, other party leaders are upset that Gadkari went by internal surveys to pick candidates. Gadkari pressed for surveys to end factional claims, which others saw as ways to end their dominance.

Gadkari says, “Our performance will surpass our previous record. We have ensured that merit has been the only criterion in picking candidates in at least 276 of the 403 seats. Caste and other factors have played their part in the rest because other parties have done that too.”