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Soumik Dey
Soumik Dey


Soft as steel

Heavy hitter Heavy hitter: Part of the Shiv Sena old guard, Anant Geete is held in high esteem by his party chief Uddhav Thackeray | Sanjay Ahlawat

A committed Shiv Sainik, Anant Geete is known as much for his soft-spoken ways as for his tough stands

  • Though Delhi keeps Geete engaged, he often responds to the call of Mumbai. He is one of the few ministers in the Modi cabinet who do not have a Twitter account. Also, he rarely interacts with the media.

Last November, the political heat in Mumbai was on the rise. Months ago, the Shiv Sena's demand for two berths in Narendra Modi's cabinet was denied, and now it stood to lose ministerial berths in Maharashtra. Relations between the Sena and the BJP, its long-time ally, were at a low ebb. An angry Uddhav Thackeray, the party president, declared that the Sena would withdraw its lone minister in the Union cabinet, Anant Geete.

Geete, however, said he would not quit until the party asked him to do so. “We are still very much part of the [BJP-led National Democratic] Alliance,” he said. When asked about Uddhav's announcement in Mumbai, he patiently explained, “I am yet to hear from him asking me to quit the ministry.” The statement spoke volumes for the frankness of the Union minister for heavy industries and public enterprises.

For more than 10 years, Geete, 63, had been the Shiv Sena's face in the all-powerful standing committee of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Born in a Konkani family to farmers Gangaram Sambhaji Geete and Anandibai, he schooled at A.G. High School at Dapoli in Ratnagiri district, which, incidentally, was the alma mater of B.R. Ambedkar.

Soon after his school days, Geete moved to Mumbai, where his tryst with social work and politics happened. He started as a volunteer of the Shiv Sena and became a corporator in Mumbai during the Emergency. “His association with Balasaheb [Thackeray] began during a public meeting near Andheri. Soon, he was made a party candidate in the civic polls,” said a Shiv Sena leader close to Geete.

According to partymen, Geete's connect with the grassroots and his political acumen impressed Balasaheb, who made him the party's face in national politics. “Balasaheb insisted that Geete contest parliamentary elections from Raigad in 1996, the first time the Shiv Sena decided to contest elections to Parliament,” said a Shiv Sena leader close to the Thackeray family. BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee had reportedly insisted that Bal Thackeray send a representative of the Shiv Sena to be included in his cabinet. A reluctant Thackeray first declined, but eventually agreed. A trusted soldier, Geete was chosen for the ministerial berth. “Balasaheb trusted him as his own student. Uddhav, too, holds Geete in high esteem,” said a confidant of Uddhav.

Geete has been representing Raigad since 1996. In 2014, he defeated Govindrao Nikam of the Nationalist Congress Party. In a party whose leaders are known for loud gestures, Geete comes across as extremely soft-spoken. But, beneath the softness is a firm mind: he does not hesitate when it comes to speaking his mind or taking a firm stand.

In 2011, as the United Progressive Alliance government was trying to persuade activist Anna Hazare to withdraw from his fast demanding the Lokpal bill, Geete said not only government functionaries but also corporate houses should be brought under the ambit of the bill, as they, too, had indulged in corruption. “Our party leader Balasaheb Thackeray wrote to Anna Hazare, requesting him to put Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Prashant Bhushan, too, on fast if needed,” he told a joint session of Parliament, rejecting the UPA government's watered down version of the bill.

In December 2012, Geete opposed the UPA government's move to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, saying the impact of such a decision would fuel rebellions. “We will not allow foreign companies to set foot in Mumbai and neither will citizens of India let them in,” he said in Parliament. He even spoke on behalf of north Indians in Mumbai, a group that for long had been the Shiv Sena's political quarry. “There are 35 lakh north Indians in Mumbai. Among them, almost 20 lakh sustain themselves by selling milk, vegetables and fruits. You are snatching their livelihoods and giving it to Walmart and other foreigners. The government is taking business away from local traders and farmers and giving it to foreigners, saying it is for the country's welfare,” said Geete. His fiery speeches later fuelled protests across Mumbai against FDI in multi-brand retail.

As minister of heavy industries and public enterprises, Geete has taken a number of steps to reenergise the market and spur manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles in India. “The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 was among the first projects that the minister insisted on after taking charge,” said Ambuj Sharma, additional secretary in the ministry. “The mission aims to manufacture six to seven million electric vehicles every year and conserve two to 2.5 million tonnes of crude fuel.”

The automotive industry has hailed Geete for making a case for continuing excise duty relief to automakers. “It was only on the minister's insistence that the deadline for phasing out duty relief, announced by the previous government, was extended by six months. It was crucial for us at a time when demand was dwindling,” said Vikram Kirloskar, president of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

Taking a tough stand comes easy to Geete. “Even when he was Union minister in the Vajpayee government, he had implemented a strict attendance rule for ministry officials,” said Devendra Patankar, a close aide of Geete. After taking charge as minister this time, Geete ensured that the heavy industries and public enterprise departments were the first to adopt an Aadhar-linked attendance system for all employees.

Though Delhi keeps Geete engaged, he often responds to the call of Mumbai. He is one of the few ministers in the Modi cabinet who do not have a Twitter account. Also, he rarely interacts with the media.

A quiet person, he does not like to mix his personal and political lives. Geete's wife, Ashwini, died three years ago, and his parents live in the family apartment in Andheri. “He comes alone to the party office in Mumbai,” said Shivaji Adhalrao Patil, Geete's party colleague in the Lok Sabha. “He meets people and then leaves quietly without anyone knowing. He is a true party worker.”

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Topics : #Shiv Sena

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