Mr Advani said the allegations against Mr. Gadkari were about "standards of business and not misuse of power or corruption".
Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani has lauded Nitin Gadkari for voluntarily seeking a probe into the charges of irregularities in the management and funding of his companies, but kept mum on the demand for his resignation as party president.
As embarrassing details of the sources of funding for, and management of, his companies emerged, Mr. Gadkari, who was in Nagpur on Wednesday to take part in an RSS ‘Vijayadasami Utsav,’ ducked questions from the media on the demand for his resignation. While RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat declined to answer any question, arguing that it was an internal matter of the BJP, the Prachar Pramukh of the organisation, Manmohan Vaidya, dubbed the charges a ‘media trial.’
The Congress has reiterated the demand, made by its general secretary Digvijay Singh, for a probe and has taken potshots at Mr. Advani for backing Mr. Gadkari. Spokesperson Manish Tewari pointed to what he termed “double standards” adopted by BJP leaders, saying they shot from the hip when it came to charges against the Congress.
Mr. Advani’s unusual and carefully worded statement has raised eyebrows as the flurry of charges against Mr. Gadkari is perceived in sections of the top echelons of the BJP as part of the ongoing power struggle. Though at the moment only the unpredictable MP, Ram Jethmalani, has demanded his resignation, some senior leaders concede that Mr. Gadkari has reasons to be concerned.
Mr. Gadkari’s stint as president ends in December, but after the recent amendment to the party constitution that allowed the incumbent a second term, it was taken that Mr. Gadkari would get another term.
However, the turn of events since India Against Corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal levelled charges of impropriety and collusion with the Congress against him has put a question mark over his chances.
And herein lies the significance of Mr. Advani’s ambiguous statement. “Next, on certain media allegations questioning investments in business enterprises, Nitinji has come clean, asking for an inquiry by the Department of Company Affairs. It is a fair and proper response. This shows the difference in the BJP’s attitude. The government has also said it will inquire. I hope that the government inquiry will be fair, and the government will not use its political hostility to the BJP to colour the inquiry. I congratulate Nitinji on his voluntarily asking for an inquiry.”
Noting that the allegations were merely media reports, Mr. Advani saw them as a Congress strategy to target the entire political class in a bid to cover up the “unprecedented charges of monumental corruption” against it.
The allegations against Mr. Gadkari were about “standards of business and not misuse of power or corruption,” he said, even while maintaining that the BJP “should be different and should not claim immunity on either scale or nature of the allegations.”