BJP president Nitin Gadkari says he has the full support of and cooperation from senior leaders and is not a “puppet” of any of them.
Mr. Gadkari, 53, the youngest ever BJP leader to hold the post, said he was taking decisions on his own though often after consulting party elders and RSS leaders.
Speaking to Karan Thapar in CNN-IBN’s “Devil’s Advocate,” he denied he was an RSS appointee imposed on the party. “Hundred per cent, I’m telling you that all leaders are with me. They are supporting me from the core of their heart, and they have guided me very properly… , and they are supporting me,” he said, asked whether he had the full backing from such senior leaders as Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar.
Mr. Gadkari, who admitted that he was new to national politics soon after taking charge on December 20, denied these senior leaders were turning him into a puppet. “ … And the people who know me know that I will never become a puppet. I can make bonafide mistakes, but I cannot make malafide mistakes.”
“Last four years as president of the BJP in Maharashtra, the RSS is part of my life conviction. But RSS leaders never direct me, never give me any instruction. And even as BJP president, I am taking my own decisions,” he said.
He said senior leader L.K. Advani and his predecessor Rajnath Singh were the first to suggest that he become the party president. He denied that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat imposed him on the BJP. “Some people are creating the image that the RSS is controlling the BJP. This is not the correct thing... They [the RSS] never interfere in our day-to-day activities, never interfere in the selection of candidates and politics.” However, he said, the BJP and the RSS had an “ideological relationship,” and the party often discussed issues with the RSS.
Asked whether the BJP had become the front for the RSS, Mr. Gadkari attributed this perception to the gap between image and reality.
Could the BJP reject any advice given by the RSS? “Yes, [at] many times. There is democracy in the RSS. Even when I go to the highest leader in the RSS, I can discuss with him … my opinion. When the RSS takes a decision on its matters, every swayamsewak is ready to accept that,” Mr. Gadkari said.
He described Mr. Bhagwat and the former RSS chief, K.S. Sudarshan, as democratic leaders with whom he had discussed issues quite often, and he had differences with them on many occasions.
Asked about the BJP being associated with the Kandhamal riots in Orissa, the Ram Sene in Karnataka and Varun Gandhi’s alleged communal speech, Mr. Gadkari said: “We are a democratic party. We have many leaders in the party with different views. These did not represent the party’s views. As far as the Ram Sene is concerned, it is not directly or indirectly related to the BJP; it is a section of the people … who attaches everything with the BJP.”