- Should respect different opinions: Nitin Gadkari on spirit of democracy
- LK Advani had expressed similar views in a blog he wrote recently
- Mr Advani's comments considered an act of revolt from the BJP patriarch
Days after LK Advani's subtle message in a blog that the BJP never called its critics anti-national, Nitin Gadkari has echoed the words. "We should respect different opinions because this is the real, true spirit of democracy," the Union Minister told NDTV.
Nitin Gadkari was asked to comment on Mr Advani's blog earlier this month, which was considered an act of revolt from the 91-year-old BJP patriarch after he was edged out of the national election and told that party president Amit Shah would contest from his long-time seat Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
"Right from its inception, the BJP has never regarded those who disagree with us politically as our 'enemies', but only as our adversaries. In our conception of Indian nationalism, we have never regarded those who disagree with us politically as anti-national," Mr Advani had written.
Nitin Gadkari said: "We do not want to call anybody who is not with us anti-national. It is his right to express and we do not have any problem about it because we always say that there are differences of opinion in a democracy."
The Union Minister's words are significant alongside the perception that he can be a serious challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi if at all there is a job opening for the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
Several comments made by Mr Gadkari have reinforced that impression.
Last year, he had remarked at a function of bureaucrats, "If I am the party president, and my MLAs are not doing well, my MPs don't perform, then I am responsible. What have I done to groom them."
He accused the media of misinterpreting his comments.
Mr Gadkari is contesting as the BJP candidate from Nagpur in Maharashtra. In 2014, he won his first election from the seat in a nationwide "Modi wave". This time, he faces a more challenging contest. His Congress rival Nana Patole is a former BJP lawmaker.
The Road Transport Minister, speaking to NDTV, said in the last election there were negative votes against the Congress-led UPA. "People in my constituency are voting for me for my development works."
What about his party BJP? "It is in the mind of the people, particularly the section of the media, some statements they present as Hindutva...We are not communal. We are a national party. Our internal and external security is very important for the country. But sometimes when we present this subject, some people interpret it as Hindutva and some go into the debate of nationalist and anti-national. Fact is people are very much interested in their own development because poverty and unemployment are big issues."
Asked about the possibility of a bigger role for him in the event of the party not performing well in the election, Mr Gadkari said: "I have already cleared it. I am very much confident that we will get the majority. And Modiji will be our Prime Minister. I neither have any agenda nor any team for that," he said.