May 30, 2016 12:00:49 am
Congress Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda met Union Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari on Sunday, giving rise to speculation that the BJP could be warming up to the three-time member ahead of elections to the Upper House.
Darda said he met his friend Gadkari to greet him on his 59th birthday. However, when he was asked if he was expecting a Rajya Sabha berth from the BJP, Darda said he would be happy “to serve the country”. The MP’s term ends in July.
The Congress has nominated former Union finance minister P Chidambaram from Maharashtra, and does not have the numbers for a second member.
The BJP has the numbers to elect at least two members from the state. It has already nominated Union Minister for Coal and Power Piyush Goyal and is likely to nominate Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu for the second seat. For the third seat, however, the BJP will fall short by 4-5 votes.
The names doing the rounds for the third seat were that of party spokesperson Shaina NC and vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe. Darda’s meeting with Gadkari has now raised a new possibility.
While Gadkari chose not to comment on Darda’s visit, Darda said, “Gadkari is a very good friend. He is doing great work by building roads. If I get a chance to serve the country I will be happy to have it.”
He added, “I had basically come to greet him on his birthday.” Gadkari’s birthday was on May 27.
Darda also thanked the Congress for nominating him thrice and asserted that his friendship with Gadkari was known to the party brass, and that they would not take any contrary view of the meeting.
Darda owns the Lokmat group of newspapers, which is widely circulated across Maharashtra.
However, his name came up in connection with the coal scam, which could pose a dilemma if the BJP decides to nominate him. With Darda’s visit to Gadkari coming just a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proud assertion in New Delhi, on the occasion of his government completing two years, that his government had been able to stop corruption, it will take great political courage for the BJP to think of Darda as a probable candidate.
“The BJP has done it earlier. Himanta Biswa Sarma’s name figured in the Saradha scam, but the BJP inducted him. It is one thing to make the right political choices about ending corruption and another thing to let go of a political dividend coming the party’s way,” said a source close to the BJP.
Sources added that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah that the third Rajya Sabha nomination should go to Vidarbha.
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