Nitin Gadkari Retains Road Transport Ministry, Also Gets MSME
Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nitin Gadkari, known best for his success in jump-starting infrastructure development, retained his portfolio as the minister of road transport and highways in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new cabinet.
Gadkari, who took oath as minister on May 30, along with Modi and other cabinet colleagues, has also been allocated the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
While he is credited with the infrastructure push, small businesses will present another challenge. India’s medium, small and micro enterprises bore the double brunt of the November 2016 cash ban and the goods and services tax rolled out eight months later. And they are yet to completely recover from the disruption.
Born in Maharashtra’s city of Nagpur in 1957, Gadkari has a master’s degree in commerce and a degree in law. Influenced by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which is headquartered in his hometown, Gadkari entered politics as a student leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and later joined the youth wing of the BJP.
He played an active role in Maharashtra state politics and was appointed public works minister of the state government in 1995, during which time he helmed the Mumbai-Pune Expressway project among other road projects.
In 2000, as chairman of the National Rural Road Development Programme, Gadkari helped conceive an ambitious and eventually successful rural roads project during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government (1999-2004).
He served as the national president of the BJP between 2009 and 2013, the youngest-ever president the party had till Amit Shah was appointed to that post in 2014.
Gadkari’s political career was marred with allegations of financial irregularities at his family-owned Purti Group. These included alleged investments by road contractors and several shell companies. Gadkari’s chauffeur was a director on some of these companies. The matter was scrutinised by the tax authorities, prompting Gadkari’s resignation as party president. In 2014, it appeared as if the authorities had dropped the case.
That year, the Modi-led BJP won the Lok Sabha elections and Gadkari was appointed minister for roads, transport and highways. His portfolios have expanded since then to include shipping and ports, water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation.
In the run up to the recent Lok Sabha polls, Gadkari was touted to be an alternative to Modi, if the BJP failed in securing a majority on its own. While he denied having any prime ministerial ambitions, Gadkari was not shy of discussing some of the failures of his government.