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Nagpur: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and union minister for surface transport and shipping Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said the BJP had lost a majority of bypolls because the opposition had divided the people on the “communal and caste lines".

He also conceded that the rising prices of petrol and diesel had played a part. But the Narendra Modi-led government would counter the opposition strategy by bringing the narrative back to development ahead of the 2019 elections, Gadkari added. He was addressing a press conference here in Nagpur on the four-year performance of the Modi government. Gadkari is an MP from Nagpur.

Gadkari made light of the opposition unity saying the “so-called united opposition would crumble the moment the various parties start discussions on who would be their leader in 2019". “This is an opportunistic alliance between those who are weak. That means we are strong and we are actually the architect of this alliance," Gadkari said.

To a question whether he could emerge a compromise prime ministerial candidate if the BJP fell short of a simple majority in 2019, Gadkari categorically ruled himself out. “Bilkul nahi. We will get majority on our own and Modiji will only become the prime minister," Gadkari said.

Gadkari cited several “milestone achievements" of the Modi government and claimed that the BJP-led government had done more in terms of development in just 48 months as compared to the “48-year-long rule of the Congress party". On asked why then the BJP was on a losing streak in the by-polls since 2014, Gadkari said the opposition was not interested in “politics of development" and that it had contested these elections over “caste and communal issues".

“They are trying to divide the society on caste and communal lines in these elections. Fear of insecurity is being created among Muslims, Dalits, and minorities that this government is not for them when the fact is that the development initiatives taken by the Modi government have helped people across castes and communities," he said adding that more than 58% of the beneficiaries of the government’s welfare programmes are Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and minorities.

“The opposition tells the people that we are out to change the Constitution when the fact is that if the Congress carried out as many as 72 amendments to the Constitution. We never indulge in politics of caste and religion and development has been our only theme and agenda.We will counter this misinformation campaign by the opposition by bringing the narrative back to development ahead of 2019," he said.

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