The power struggle within the Bharatiya Janata Party entered a new phase on Sunday with the leadership deciding to suspend party MP Ram Jethmalani, ostensibly for his criticism of senior leaders who questioned the appointment of the new CBI chief.
Since anti-corruption activist-turned politician Arvind Kejriwal trained his guns on BJP president Nitin Gadkari last month, an influential section within the party has mounted a campaign for his resignation. Mr. Jethmalani was one of the first to seek his ouster, citing the charges levelled against a company run by him.
The purported irregularities in the Purti Group continue to haunt Mr. Gadkari with new revelations in a section of the media that his family members were directors of the company at some point of time. The next few weeks are crucial for Mr. Gadkari as his term as party chief comes to an end in December last week. After the National Council of the BJP in Surajkund amended the party constitution, enabling a second term for the party president, it was taken for granted that Mr. Gadkari would get a second term. However, the recent developments have put a question mark on this, though he has survived pressures from within and outside for his resignation, due to strong support from the RSS.
The party could have ignored Mr. Jethmalani’s periodic jibes at Mr. Gadkari but once it became known that the maverick MP was speaking on behalf of some other senior party leaders, it became difficult for the party president to ignore him.
Mr. Jethmalani named Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrugan Sinha as those who were on the same wavelength on the BJP chief. His latest missive, attacking Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley for raising questions on the appointment of new CBI chief Ranjit Sinha, has given an opportunity to the BJP leadership to act against him.
Having suspended Mr. Jethmalani, the BJP has no option but to act against actor-turned politician Shatrughan Sinha, who has endorsed the views of Mr. Jethmalani on the appointment of the new CBI Director.
The Parliamentary Board of the party is scheduled to meet on Monday to consider his possible expulsion from the primary membership of the party.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Jethmalani dared the leadership to take action. “If there is any action taken against me, I will welcome it but I don’t think anyone has the guts to take any action against me. I cannot speak for the party. I am a very small person in the party, I can’t predict its action but that does not permit me from speaking the truth... I have expressed my view and I am very happy that at least 3-4 persons have supported me,” he told journalists.