Dramatic turn of events marks end of his tenure, despite RSS support

In a dramatic turn of events, hours after income tax raids on firms connected to Nitin Gadkari, senior leaders of the party forced the beleaguered BJP president to call it quits and chose, by consensus, to back the candidature of the former president, Rajnath Singh, for the top job.

Mr. Gadkari, who was away from the national capital, issued a statement on his return here, announcing his decision not to seek a second term. The election process would commence at 10 p.m. Wednesday. Mr. Singh, a veteran Rajput leader from Uttar Pradesh, will be declared elected as he is the sole candidate.

Referring to the controversy triggered by charges of irregularities in a firm owned by him, Mr. Gadkari said he did not want it to adversely affect the party’s interest. “I have committed no wrong or any impropriety either directly or indirectly. Yet the UPA government has been making an effort to spread disinformation about me in order to hurt me and my party. I have always said that I am willing for any independent inquiry. I shall fight these efforts of this government both politically and legally.”

The consensus on Mr. Singh’s candidature was arrived at a meeting convened by Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, at which his counterpart in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and the former president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, were present. After taking into the account the latest developments, the leaders contacted Mr. Gadkari and convinced them that his continuation was not in the best interests of the party.

The leaders also got in touch with senior RSS leaders and got their approval for a change in leadership. According to sources, the Sangh Parivar, which batted for a second term for Mr. Gadkari till the last minute, conveyed to the BJP leaders that it would agree to any consensus candidate.

Surprisingly, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, before his departure for Mumbai in the afternoon, contacted Mr. Naidu and asked him to take up the job once again. However, Mr. Naidu did not agree.

The BJP’s Parliamentary Board will meet at the party headquarters half-an-hour before the election process commences. The pace of events in the evening was so fast that just before the meeting of the senior leaders, the BJP, in a major goof, condemned the IT raids on firms connected to Mr. Gadkari on the “eve of his re-election” as party president.

Though a second term for Mr. Gadkari was considered a foregone conclusion, the rebels appeared determined to embarrass him with their efforts to make it a contest.

This copy has been corrected for a typographical error

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