How did an INTUC leader become BJP president? Or did the BJP leader carry out a stealthy acquisition. Several years ago, Nitin Gadkari, as an influential local leader, won a convincing victory at the Nagpur branch of the Congress-affiliated trade union.
The event did raise some comment, Gadkari’s coup being acknowledged as pretty smart footwork. But now, after the leader took charge of a troubled BJP from Rajnath Singh some months ago, it is downright embarrassing for Congress to have Gadkari presiding over INTUC affairs in the orange city.
At an informal exchange at the TOI office on Wednesday, Gadkari revealed that he had been worried by BJP’s falling support in various parts of eastern Maharashtra, Nagpur included. He floated a workers’ initiative and began to approach workers who had opted for voluntary retirement schemes but were finding it hard to get their dues.
The BJP chief said he discovered that local trade union leaders were taking cuts from payments made to workers, many of whom were employed in textiles. He approached the then textiles minister in the NDA government, Kashiram Rana, and persuaded him that payments ought to be made directly to accounts of workers who had accepted VRS. This way they would evade the avaricious designs of TU bosses.
"I think I earned the goodwill of a lot of workers who were not well-off and were from different communities, including the minorities. They were relieved that they did not have to succumb to the demands. The amount involved was not small, it was Rs 8 crore," said Gadkari.
Emboldened to stand for the next INTUC election, Gadkari was supported by 22 of 33 members of the executive and soon found himself at the TU’s office at Vaidyanath Chowk. It was quite an experience as he spied portraits of Congress greats Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi on the walls instead of the more familiar pictures of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee that grace BJP offices.
On to a good thing, Gadkari hasn’t let go since, maintaining his grip on the INTUC post. It, perhaps, did not matter as long as he operated out of Nagpur. But after RSS backed him and he transited to the big stage, having an INTUC man as BJP president may not suit Congress very much even though the Nagpur unit may not be complaining. Neither is Gadkari.
Courtesy- Times of India