Union Minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari said there is no "220 club" in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hoping for a reduced tally, which could see the emergence of a replacement to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The senior BJP leader rejected any sort of dialogue regarding a substitute candidate and said these are mere speculations by the press. He also asserted that the party will return to power with a full majority under the Prime Minister's stewardship. Gadkari's name has often been the subject of speculation as an 'acceptable' contender if the saffron party falls significantly short of a majority.
"There is no such thing. Those who want to write will write. I don't do such calculations or have any such expectations. I am a worker of the party. I am sure that the work done under PM Modi will result in a full majority. So no such situation is going to happen," Gadkari told TOI. The BJP leader was responding to a question that he was often indicated as a leader who could work with allies and was also close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Putting all speculations to rest, Gadkari earlier had said that he is not in the race for the post of Prime Minister as is being widely speculated and that the country was progressing well under the leadership and ideology of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's able hands.
"I am not in the race to be the Prime Minister. PM Modi is the PM and will be the PM even after the elections. I am an RSS man, service to the nation is my duty. We are all behind him [PM Modi]. I am another worker in the fulfilment of his vision. Where does the question of me being a PM arise?" Gadkari said while speaking at the India Today Conclave this month.
Gadkari's veiled criticism of PM Modi
Gadkari had made multiple remarks that were apparently critical of PM Modi. Back in December 2018, Gadkari said that the leadership should own up to failures in the backdrop of BJP's defeat in the assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. In January this year, Gadkari said, "Political leaders, who do not fulfil the dreams they peddle, will get thrashed by people." He further clarified saying that he was not among those who only show dreams.
Nitin Gadkari has many times spoken against the politics of religion- a policy that is followed by the BJP. Also, Gadkari's comment last year that there were no jobs in the economy had provided an opportunity to the opposition to slam the Modi government.