Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has spent much of his time this election season denying that he is a claimant for the Prime Minister's job.
The 61-year-old former BJP president has fueled speculation with a series of comments that were seen to suggest that he is not on the same page as Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Reports talked about Nitin Gadkari as an alternative, were the BJP to lose some of its bargaining power vis-a-vis allies. He shut down such talk with: "Narendra Modi is our leader and will be prime minister."
Nitin Gadkari contested from his parliamentary constituency Nagpur in Maharashtra, where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's ideological mentor, has its headquarters. He won.
As a transport minister, Mr Gadkari was a man on mission. He claimed that under his supervision, the speed of highway building increased. He is also credited for scrapping hundreds of obsolete traffic laws. Many political observers believe he is one of the high performing ministers of the Modi government.
Before getting prominence in national politics, Mr Gadkari's 3-year stint as Maharashtra's Public Works Department Minister had built his 'development man' image. The state saw many mega infrastructural projects take shape, including the famed Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
His big national break was when he succeeded BJP stalwart Rajnath Singh as party chief. When he took charge, the BJP was a beaten unit as the Congress-led UPA had dealt another national election drubbing to the party. When he exited the post in 2013, the BJP was on the verge of a comeback. A year later, the party returned to power, winning a huge mandate on what was perceived as a Narendra Modi wave.
Many observers credit Mr Gadkari for starting the pro-development narrative that helped the party form a majority government for the first time in decades.
Mr Gadkari is considered very close to the RSS leadership.
He is known for articulating his views freely, often to the embarrassment of his party. Last year, his comment on unemployment raised eyebrows. "Let's us assume the reservation is given. But there are no jobs. Because in banks, the jobs have shrunk because of IT. The government recruitment is frozen. Where are the jobs?" he had said, giving an opportunity to the opposition to renew its attacks on the government.
Another comment - "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?". Mr Gadkari dismissed reports that he was attacking the PM. He had a hard time, with the Congress interpreting his comments as an attack on PM Modi and Rahul Gandhi saying he was the "only leader" in the BJP who had the guts to speak the truth.
To speculation that he was the RSS pick for the prime ministerial post, he clarified: "I do not dream, neither do I go to anyone nor do any lobbying. I am not in this race... I my telling you from my heart."
Mr Gadkari is also a popular leader among other parties. While watching the Republic Day parade, he was seen deep in conversation with his neighbor. That he was Rahul Gandhi only added fuel to all the speculation.