Former Samajwadi Party (SP) Rajya Sabha member Neeraj Shekhar officially joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday. Shekhar had quit the Rajya Sabha on Monday. Sources said a couple of Bahujan Samaj Party Rajya Sabha MPs could also join the BJP. On Tuesday, Shekhar was seen talking to current and former SP MPs, including Naresh Agarwal, who had crossed over from the SP to the BJP last year. As other SP MPs ribbed Shekhar, Agarwal ominously said more SP leaders were queuing up to join the BJP.
Opposition members in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday praised Union Roads and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari during a discussion on demands for grants for the road transport and highways ministry. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Gadkari was an “informative and innovative personality”, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party’s N K Premchandran said he was withdrawing all the 21 cut motions he had moved against the demands for grants as a tribute to Gadkari’s “exemplary performance”. However, the Trinamool Congress’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay, alluding to Gadkari’s detailing of his plans, including an overhead double decker bus service in cities, said the minister was a “sapnon ka saudagar”, or a merchant of dreams. When Badhyopadhyay requested more road construction in the eastern region, Gadkari hit back, saying the most difficult state to work in in terms of acquiring land for road projects was West Bengal.
Inspired by Kennedy
Underlining his commitment to building better roads and highways, Gadkari told the Lok Sabha in his chambers he had hung on the wall a quote from former US president John F Kennedy that “American roads are not good because America is rich, but America is rich because American roads are good”. He also ruled out ending toll tax charged from road users. “Toll zindagi bhar band nahin ho sakta, kam-zyada ho sakta hai, toll ka janmadata main hoon” (charging of toll tax can never end though toll tax rates may vary from time to time. Toll is my brainchild), the minister said. Gadkari introduced the toll system as a minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra in the mid-1990s. An MP later quipped that Gadkari got much praise because several MPs, or their families, either had a stake in the toll-tax business or were road contractors.