New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is split wide open over the continuation of Nitin Gadkari as the party President. Senior BJP leader LK Advani skipped the Core Group meeting at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday with sources saying that he is extremely upset and unhappy with his colleagues for not acting against Gadkari, who is facing allegations of corruption. The meeting venue witnessed more drama as Gadkari too decided to stay back and not attend the meeting. Some of his supporters even raised slogans in his support even as the leaders were busy in their deliberations.
The BJP Core Group meeting will decide the fate of Gadkari. Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) ideologue S Gurumurthy briefed 14 top leaders of the BJP including Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley on the allegations against Gadkari. Gurumurthy's presentation has also been given to Advani.
In a statement earlier, Advani had congratulated Gadkari for subjecting himself to an investigation. Moreover, Advani wants a clear message from the RSS that Gadkari won't be given a second term as BJP President even though the party constitution was amended to facilitate this. The RSS is in touch with senior BJP leader from Himachal Pradesh, Shanta Kumar, if the need for a stop gap arrangement for the BJP's top post arises.
The RSS, which helped Gadkari get the BJP presidentship, is still supporting him and has maintained that media trial cannot be the yardstick for pronouncing him guilty. Advani has made it clear that he is unhappy with RSS's open support for Gadkari. The fight is clearly between Advani and the RSS now. Advani was ejected out of his position as BJP president after he praised Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah and he clearly hasn't forgotten that.
The BJP President has also managed to get the support of Sushma Swaraj. "The media reports that I am not supporting Shri Nitin Gadkari are absolutely false. I have always supported him and I reiterate my support," Swaraj tweeted.
The Core Group meeting comes on the day when senior party leader and famous lawyer Ram Jethmalani openly attacked Gadkari and demanded his resignation. Jethmalani's son and BJP MP Mahesh Jethmalani had hit out against Gadkari on Monday and sought his resignation till an investigation into the alleged corruption cases are over. Other senior BJP party leaders Yashwant Sinha, Shatrughan Sinha and Jaswant Singh also expressed their displeasure over Gadkari remaining as the party president.
If Gadkari steps down as party president then the hold of the RSS over BJP would weaken and either Shanta Kumar or Advani could be made the interim president. If Gadkari remains party president till the end of his term in December 2012, then the Congress would find it easy to fend off charges of corruption. There is also a possibility of more BJP leaders taking on Gadkari publicly. If Gadkari remains the president, but assures the party that he won't vie for a second term, then the Winter Session of Parliament would continue but the BJP would be on the backfoot. Infighting may also intensify as too many candidates are likely to vie for the top job.
Gadkari is alleged to have used his political position to further his own business interests. He allegedly floated shell companies with fictitious addresses to justify wrong accounting entries. He also allegedly misused his position as the PWD minister of Maharasthra and awarded many contracts to IRB Infrastructure. Gadkari's firm Purti Group has also been in the line of fire for alleged irregularities.
The BJP president invited more trouble on Monday after a statement where he was alleged to have compared Swami Vivekanand's IQ with that of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.