Despite being poles apart ideologically, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and CPI leader A B Bardhan, who died on Saturday, forged a friendship that transcended political differences. So much so that Gadkari credits Bardhan’s “inspiring and fiery speech”, which he heard as a schoolboy, as one of the reasons behind his decision to pursue a career in politics. And when he became BJP president, Gadkari went to seek Bardhan’s blessings at the CPI office.
“Today, we don’t have many leaders whose feet we would touch for blessings. But Bardhan was one,” said Gadkari.
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After failing to attend the leader’s funeral in New Delhi, Gadkari has now asked his office to cancel all appointments and reschedule programmes in the national capital on January 7 so that he can attend a condolence meeting for Bardhan in Nagpur.
Gadkari, who maintained his camaraderie with Bardhan for more than four decades, was generous in his praise of the Communist leader. “When I was a student, he was the tallest political leader around. His oratory was excellent, he was a very honest leader and he used to speak on economic issues. He was also very sharp-minded,” Gadkari told The Indian Express.
He fondly remembered the debates at Dakshinamurty Square in Nagpur during the Ganesh Utsav, at which Bardhan was a strong figure. “One day, after Bardhan’s speech, one of the participants said, ‘Bardhan is really good, but his party is bad’… I got an opportunity to work with him as a young activist as he led the labour movement for mill workers in Nagpur. Everyone respected him as a man with an immense character,” Gadkari said.
The Union minister also visited Bardhan frequently while he was ill.
“He stuck to his ideology till his last breath. I respect that,” said Gadkari.