When, in December 2009, Nitin Gadkari eased into his role as boss of the Bharatiya Janata Party, he was widely believed to have brought a whiff of fresh air to an otherwise dour and hidebound organisation. So different was he that Mr. Gadkari went up on stage at a BJP event and sang a popular Hindi film song, whose lyrics described life as a puzzle that doled out laughter and tears in equal measure. Those words might have been penned for Mr. Gadkari considering his seeming transition from happy-go-lucky, genial chief to businessman whose past life seems to be catching up with him. Not that the BJP chief ever hid his entrepreneurial past. On the contrary, he leveraged it smartly, positioning himself as a doer as against the BJP’s squabbling, politicking second-rung. Indeed, it was this perceived aloofness from politics that won him the party chief’s post. Mr. Gadkari was far from being the quintessential Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh man; yet, such was his comfort level with the Sangh that the BJP amended the party constitution to place him in line for a second consecutive term as president. From that near invincible position to being at the centre of raging corruption allegations, it has been a precipitous fall for Mr. Gadkari whose promised second term now looks less and less certain.
When Team Arvind Kejriwal outed the BJP president as a crafty entrepreneur who acted in collusion with the Maharashtra government to further his business interests, the revelations didn’t quite make the expected impact. So much so, a triumphant Mr. Gadkari was able to declare that he would quit politics if he was found to be corrupt. Little did he know that the story was still to reach its climax. While only an impartial probe can conclusively establish the nature and extent of Mr. Gadkari’s business dealings, astonishing details have emerged over the past week that prima facie indicate a range of irregularities involving front companies and dubious cross-holding and funding patterns. The sudden flow of documents against Mr. Gadkari also suggests that he has powerful enemies within his party. It seems an unlikely coincidence that voices seeking his resignation have grown in the days after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Ram Jethmalani met RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat. On the other hand, Lal Krishna Advani and Sushma Swaraj have come out in Mr. Gadkari’s defence and praised him for agreeing to an investigation of the charges. The BJP ought to have been in the enviable position of being seen as an alternative to the corruption-beset Congress. But the principal opposition has tottered equally from scam to scam, suggesting that the two national rivals are in a race to the bottom.