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Does my vote matter?

Does my vote matter?
Nitin Gadkari’s book, India Aspires, is a lovely summation of the former BJP president’s economic vision and a fantastic read for those who are not afraid of figures and are not looking for mere slogans. It documents his work and his vision.

There is no doubt that the BJP is the party to go for in the upcoming election. No party has such a variety of support from intellectuals as the BJP has. No intellectual worth his mettle is supporting the Congress, and barring a few slogan-mongers, no one is interested in the AAP either. Definitely, not a single mainstream intellectual has any feelings for the AAP. And truthfully, why not? While the Congress has a few, very well-spoken people (in English, I should add), the BJP has the pick of intellectuals, and to go with it, well-spoken leaders too. Yes, many of them may be better orators in Hindi, but that is the language that matters in this country!

My articles are very often the result of some recent books I may have read. Likewise, today’s article is influenced by Nitin Gadkari’s India Aspires – as told to Tuhin A Sinha. While Narendra Modi is the lion of the party on the roll and nothing much needs to be said on him, it is Gadkari who has never failed to impress me with his social vision, combined with his eagerness to walk the talk. And yet, so less is written on him.

Let me recall a recent meeting with Gadkari. While I had gone to discuss what the BJP should be doing to counter fake allegations (like the one that the party is anti-Muslim), he was most excitedly showing me a new oven prototype that his company had created that could actually save India huge expenses on natural gas, decrease our imports, and subsequently make our exchange rate stronger.

The oven runs on pellets made of agro-waste and even municipal-waste. Thus, the farmers who were never getting anything for their agro-waste could earn more. Thousands, if not lakhs, of new jobs could be generated, and an environment- friendly practice could be created additionally. Gadkari was so excited about the oven that he forced his people to light it up within his office room – though his people were too scared that the smoke would discolour the ceiling. But he was confident, not without reason, that the oven was virtually smokeless – and no doubt it was.

Whenever we have met to discuss politics, he has been more interested in talking about how to have fuel efficiency and about environment-friendly rural employment generation techniques. His focus is simple – we must have investments in those technologies that have a highly favourable capital output ratio and those that can create rural employment, so that India’s biggest crime, that of lack of dignity of existence for millions due to unemployment, is booted out. His advantage is that as a student of economics, he has calculations and figures on his fingertips!

I have said this before too: Gadkari is educated, a hands-on entrepreneur and an agriculturist whose entrepreneurial ventures have mostly focussed on rural employment. He has a child-like enthusiasm for things and has no qualms about being a businessman, and says openly that you can’t do social work on an empty stomach. He can rattle off the benefits of solar energy to sewage-water power generation and can detail down their cost-benefit analysis better than anybody. He can talk of bio-fuel, its costs and its advantages, like no politician can. He can explain the benefits of privatisation wherever required with as much ease as he can explain the advantages of social entrepreneurship. He is that rarest of rare educated politicians who can use terms like ‘internal rate of return’ with full confidence while explaining cost-benefits of rural entrepreneurship ventures.

Gadkari’s stint as PWD Minister in Maharashtra saw sweeping changes from the top to bottom, and he created a record in terms of roads built during his tenure – including the Mumbai-Pune highway, all because, as he says, he believed in what John F Kennedy said: ‘American roads are good not because America is rich; but America is rich because American roads are good’. Through his scheme of rural connectivity by road that helped to connect 13,736 remote villages (which had remained unconnected since Independence), he is also credited with helping solve the malnutrition problems prevailing in many remote areas, notable amongst them being the Melghat Dharni area of Amravati district, which previously had no access to medical aid, ration or educational facilities. Always a believer in walking the talk, his Purti group has brought enormous development in rural areas and carried out many social welfare projects, like making more than a hundred villages self-sufficient by solar energy.

His book, India Aspires, is a lovely summation of his economic vision and a fantastic read for those who are not afraid of figures and who do not like sweeping slogan mongering. It’s a book that documents his work and vision. Clearly, if Modi is the leader and we have backbones like Gadkari in the BJP, the party will this time be an altogether different outfit than ever before.

One particular Gadkari quote (taken from Tagore) stands out in my mind, ‘I slept and dreamt that life was a joy. I woke up and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy’. I hope all BJP leaders live by this motto, and from 2014 to 2019, create magical progress that India has lost over the previous one decade.

The author is a management guru and director of IIPM think tank
Arindam Chaudhury

Arindam Chaudhury

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