Supporters of outgoing BJP president Nitin Gadkari and RSS swayamsevaks here are anguished over Mr. Gadkari’s exit and are all the more pained as their perception of the incident is that the “north India lobby” has prevailed over the RSS. They put the blame squarely on veteran leader L.K. Advani’s shoulders and said: “This is Advani’s doing and he will face the heat now.”

Said one RSS sympathiser: “We do not understand how leaders like Mohanji [Bhagwat] and Bhayyaji Joshi were forced to accept Advani’s proposal. There is something which has forced the Sangh to take a back seat.” A source close to Mr. Gadkari, when asked how Mr. Gadkari was forced out despite being backed by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat: “Aap manmani ek bar kar sakte ho, bar bar nahi (You cannot have your way all the time). Gadkari was not really acceptable to Advani from the beginning and Mohanji had his way first time, but after the atmosphere that was created against Gadkari, even he found it hard to back him.”

Most of the BJP workers and swayamsevaks were taken by surprise over the turn of events. On Tuesday a meeting of BJP workers was held here to discuss about arrangements on Mr. Gadkari’s grand welcome to Nagpur.

But soon they received a call informing them of the resignation.

One hopeful worker, however, said: “Rajnath is just a makeshift arrangement and saheb [Mr. Gadakri] will be back as the president in four months.”

One swayamsevak said that Mohan Bhagawat’s absence from the meeting between Mr. Gadkari, Mr. Advani and Bhaiyaji Joshi in Mumbai was the reason Mr. Gadkari was on his way out. “To speak on phone and to participate personally in the meeting is a different thing. Had Mohanji been a part of that meeting, situation would have been different,” he said, adding that Mr. Advani won’t be “welcome” in Sangh programmes anymore.

‘Don’t drag RSS’ name’

Meanwhile, RSS ideologue MM.G. Vaidya has said: “It was a right decision by Gadkari when he got to know that there is no common opinion about his second term in the party. He did not like divisions in the party because of him.”

“Someone had to become BJP president. If not Nitin, so Rajnath Singh’s name came up. Please don’t drag RSS’s name in all this. Being RSS supporter or not, is not a criterion for the BJP presidentship. Media can now accept its win, after all it was media which levelled all the allegations,” Mr. Vaidya said.

When asked about the Income tax department’s raid on companies related to the Purti group, the senior-most swayamsevak said: “Income tax department carried out raids recently, but the demand for Gadkari’s resignation has been there for a long time now. So you cannot say that the I-T raids were the main reason behind his resignation.” He made it clear that the meeting between Bhaiyaji Joshi, Mr. Gadkari and L.K. Advani in Mumbai was not held to decide on a second term for Mr. Gadkari.

When asked if Mr. Gadkari’s resignation showed that the RSS was losing its hold over the party, he said: “You take this out of your mind that RSS interferes in BJP matters, but yes, they [BJP] do ask for the RSS opinion. The RSS has always been maintaining that you people [BJP leaders] have to run the party and not the RSS. The RSS gives its opinion and it’s for the BJP to decide to accept it or not.

However, the change in presidentship would not affect the party or its policies, he believed. “It’s a system. If the president has changed, it won’t really affect the performance of the party in the upcoming elections, because elections are not fought by one man but by a party.”

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