Nitin Gadkari, the ‘highway man’ known for navigating political obstacles, is now on a quest for his third consecutive Lok Sabha victory from Nagpur. As he prepares to contest against Congress’ MLA Vikas Thakre in the stronghold of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Gadkari finds himself at a crossroads while charting his own course. While his supporters hope for a larger national role post-2024, Gadkari is focused on winning the Nagpur seat by a margin exceeding five lakh votes.

The Nagpur LS constituency has historically been a stronghold for the Congress party. Since 1977, Congress has clinched the Nagpur Lok Sabha seat nine times. While the BJP’s Banwarilal Purohit managed to win the seat in 1996 amid the Ram Mandir issue dominating headlines, the Congress regained its dominance and held the seat for the subsequent four terms. In 2014, Nitin Gadkari shattered Congress’ stronghold by defeating the four-term sitting MP and veteran Congress leader Vilas Muttemwar with 54.17 per cent of the votes, while Muttemwar received just 27.92 per cent of the votes. Gadkari further solidified his position in 2019, increasing his vote share to 55.61 per cent and defeating Congress’ Nana Patole, who received 37.42 per cent of the votes.

Poll agenda

After filing his nomination papers on Wednesday, Gadkari highlighted his efforts over the past decade to drive Nagpur’s overall development, citing projects totaling more than ₹1 lakh crore. He emphasised initiatives such as the Mihan (special economic zone), 24x7 water supply, and infrastructure development, appealing to voters to elect him to the Lok Sabha with a margin exceeding five lakh votes. He didn’t forget to praise Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India’s rapid progress under his leadership.

Vikas Thakre criticised Gadkari, alleging that Nagpur still suffers from development shortcomings despite his leadership. Thakre framed the election as a broader struggle to preserve democracy and combat autocratic rule. Coming from the Kunbi community, which holds a significant vote share in Nagpur, Thakre aims to capitalise on dissatisfaction among Kunbi Marathas regarding the State government’s decision to grant OBC quota reservation benefits to Marathas using old government documents. Thakre hopes to leverage this discontent in his bid against Gadkari.


The Congress is also banking on Gadkari’s foes within the BJP-led alliance. Gadkari, hailed as the “blue-eyed boy” of the RSS, entered national politics as a promising figure. Having played diverse roles in state politics, Gadkari became the BJP’s national president in 2009, setting a record as the youngest person to hold the position at the age of 52. However, his tenure was cut short in 2013 when he resigned from the post amidst allegations of questionable investments in the Purti group of companies. Despite being poised for a second term, opposition within the BJP prevented his re-election. Following his resignation, senior RSS ideologue MG Vaidya had suggested that Gadkari was ousted due to an “internal political conspiracy.”

While Nitin Gadkari’s supporters and mentors in the RSS envision a significant role for him post the 2024 LS polls, a faction within the BJP is growing apprehensive about this prospect. Gadkari’s supporters are eager to see him unleash his full potential on the political stage, setting the stage for a potential clash of ambitions and power dynamics within the party.