Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday that the BJP-led NDA will win more than 300 seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, but dismissed questions about being seen as a prime ministerial candidate.
“The BJP-led alliance will go past 300 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” Gadkari said in an interaction with The Indian Express and Loksatta in Nagpur.
“The Opposition alliance against us is out of fear… they have developed due to the strength that we have gained through our work during the past five years. Our expectation is that we will win over 300 seats this time,” he said.
The minister also expressed confidence that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will retain the 41 seats out of the available 48 seats in Maharashtra that it had won in the 2014 polls.
Asked if he would like to continue with his current portfolios — that of Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, and River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation — for the next five years, Gadkari said, “I have got a lot in all these years of my political life. Now I am more inclined to do more of social work.”
To a question on whether he would like to return to Maharashtra, the minister said, “Earlier I used to dislike Delhi. But now I have taken a liking for it and would like to stay put there.”
Gadkari, whose name has not yet been formally announced for Nagpur Lok Sabha constituency, also parried questions on being seen as an “alternative” prime ministerial candidate. “People in the media have very irresponsibly attached misplaced meaning to my straight forward and unintentional statements,” he said.
Asked about how he gets praised by leaders across party lines, Gadkari said, “It’s not a calculated move. In the RSS, I was taught that one must do constructive work for anyone and everyone. I have scrupulously followed that in my life.”
Speaking about Nagpur, he said, “During the past five years, we have undertaken development works of over Rs 72,000 crore in Nagpur. This includes metro rail, concrete roads, bridges, flyovers, sports stadiums, free medical treatment to over two lakh people, various educational institutions such as Symbiosis, IIM, AIIMS, development of major markets, etc. All this will come until play during elections.”
He said, “The Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur project… was in poor condition before we took over. It is now producing 23,101 (direct) and 42,987 (indirect) jobs.”
He also discounted the possibility of Congress nominee Nana Patole having an advantage due to his caste. “I have never worked under any caste considerations. We (BJP) used to be referred to as a ‘party of Brahmins’. Now all sections of society are largely associated with us,” Gadkari said.
He praised Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for his “successful stewardship” of the state.