The controversy over the propriety of Nitin Gadkari continuing as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president continuing in office refuses to die down and now the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been dragged into it directly.
Stunned by veteran RSS member M.G. Vaidya’s blog entry that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi could be behind the campaign within the BJP for ousting Mr. Gadkari, the BJP president issued a statement that his party rejected ‘insinuation’ made by the senior RSS member.
“The writer has tried to link recent comments by one of the party MPs with Mr. Modi. The BJP completely rejects such insinuation, as it is totally unfounded. All Central leaders of the party and its Chief Ministers have been working cohesively and unitedly for the party’s cause. We are fighting Gujarat Assembly elections with complete unity of purpose and total mutual confidence. The BJP is firmly and unitedly behind Mr. Modi and we are confident that the party will win decisively in the ensuing assembly elections,” Mr. Gadkari said in a written statement.
However, RSS propaganda chief Manmohan Vaidya sought to play down Mr. Vaidya’s comments, saying the article only expressed Mr. Vaidya’s “personal views” and it was not the Sangh’s official view.
Ever since anti-corruption activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal trained his guns on Mr. Gadkari for the alleged wrongdoings by a company owned by him, there have been murmurs within the BJP that an influential section within is targeting Mr. Gadkari. However, it is for the first time that any one has pointed fingers at Mr. Modi.
The rumblings within the BJP surfaced after BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani and his son Mahesh Jethmalani went public saying Mr. Gadkari should immediately step down from his post as the charges against him were damaging to the party.
The senior Jethmalani claimed the backing of other party leaders like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha. The campaign within the BJP against Mr. Gadkari is widely perceived as a power struggle among senior leaders with an eye on the 2014 elections.
Last week, a prominent RSS face and BJP National Executive member Jagadish Shettigar joined the ranks of those demanding the resignation of Mr. Gadkari. The growing chorus within the party makes it very difficult for Mr. Gadkari to even consider bidding for a second term.
The discomfort within the party over the allegations against Mr. Gadkari is evident from the fact that the BJP’s top brass had to meet twice in a span of less than three weeks to affirm their support for him.