Though Nagpur is hardly rural, the decay in its dirt-poor neighbourhood has started affecting the city as well, and Gadkari hopes to gain a foothold in this Congress-NCP dominated region with farmer-friendly initiatives.
In the last two weeks, Gadkari's political pronouncements have been accompanied by a publicity blitz for his businesses. Opening a revived sugar mill in Bhandara Gondia, inaugurating another in Wardha, and events at three sugar factories in Nagpur all promoting Gadkari's image of 'pragmatic politics'.
At the start of Vidarbha's sugar crushing season, Gadkari invited Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh and leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj to inaugurate Bhandara Gondia's Wainganga Sugar and Power Mill. Originally started by Gondia MP and heavy industries minister Praful Patel, the mill had turned sick and was one of the 22 mills in Vidarbha seized by Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank. This factory is not of an industrialist but of a farmer. I am just one of its 20,000 shareholders, he said at a kisan rally to mark the occasion.
Wainganga, a public limited company, claims to have created employment for nearly 10,000 people in related activities. Gadkari seems to send out the message that he means business, both literally and as a warning to rivals. He senses an opportunity to secure a foothold in Congress-NCP dominated Vidarbha through a farmers' cooperative in the form of a public limited company.
The farmer is in distress in Vidarbha. Wheat is not being procured, rice mills are closed and there are 16-hour power cuts, Gadkari said at the farmers' rally.
At the height of the power of sugar cooperatives, there were 22 mills in Vidarbha alone. All have shut down. Two were sold for scrap. This (Wainganga Sugar and Power) is one of the few to have been revived, said Sudhir Dive, managing director of the mill, an ex-bureaucrat who took voluntary retirement to run the mill.
Gadkaris strategy seems to be clear. He has already prepared his plan B after the expiry of his term as BJP president.
He will fight for a stake in Delhi, even if the going is slow, one grain of sugar at a time.