The political row over alleged wrongdoings in business dealings by BJP chief Nitin Gadkari continued on Wednesday with senior party leaders LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj backing his stand in asking for a probe and the Congress retorting that it was not enough.
BJP leader LK Advani with party president Nitin Gadkari releases a book at a function in Delhi on October 20. PTI Photo
The Congress sought that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief answer the charges against him and claimed the allegations were the result of the BJP's internal fights.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, meanwhile, said in Nagpur that the allegations against Gadkari were a "matter of the party".
In a statement, Advani termed Gadkari's asking for a probe by the department of company affairs as a "fair and proper response" and also sought to point out that the allegations against the BJP chief were "about standards of business and not misuse of power or corruption".
Sushma Swaraj said it was "unjust" and "unfair" to accept allegations against Gadkari without a probe.
She also said that the BJP members "trust" Gadkari and "stand firmly behind him".
On the otherhand, Congress on Wednesday took at dig at LK Advani for backing his party chief in the face of allegations of dubious funding of his companies, saying it reflected BJP's "double standards" on "every issue" including corruption.
The party also sought to draw parallel between the controversy surrounding Gadkari and the cash on camera scandal involving former BJP chief Bangaru Laxman.
"BJP has internalised double standards in its approach to each and every issue. When the BJP or its leaders are in the zone of questioning, the argument of political vendetta is conveniently trotted out but when it involves a non-BJP issue of personality, they shoot from the hip without responsibility and restraint," party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
Insisting that there are questions on the BJP chief's role, he said "you cannot come out of the shadow of these questions by levelling allegations on others. There is only one way that the government probes the matter and you come out clean".
He was responding to the remarks of Advani lauding Gadkari's offer to face an inquiry into the allegations and saying it is a "fair and proper" response.
Advani said the allegations against Gadkari involving his company Purti Power and Sugar were about "standards of business and not misuse of power or corruption".
"I hope that the government inquiry will be fair and the government will not use its political hostility to the BJP to colour the inquiry," he said.
Another Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi also ridiculed Advani's contentions.
"I feel like laughing at this defence. The entire country has seen the allegations has not come from one section but from different sides. Even after that, if instead of giving explanation on the allegations, he (Advani) is congratulating Gadkari.
People of the country will give a befitting response to it," he said.
In a statement laced with sarcasm, Alvi said the president of a party represents its ideology and as such BJP is identified with its chief's ideology.
"We remember the entire BJP was defending its former President Bangaru Laxman, when allegations were levelled against him.... It is their decision whom they want to keep as their party chief. We are not saying BJP should remove its chief or Gadkari should resign," he said.
Laxman had to quit as BJP chief after he was caught on camera allegedly taking a bribe of Rs. one lakh in a fictitious arms deal case 11 years ago and was sentenced to four years in jail by a Delhi court in April this year.
Advani hoped the government inquiry, announced Tuesday by corporate affairs minister M Veerappa Moily, would be "fair" and uncoloured by its "political hostility" to the BJP.
He said the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) "is trying to work a strategy to paint the entire political class with the same brush to minimise and escape its unpardonable sins".
Advani urged the BJP to "be different and should not claim immunity on either scale or nature of the allegations".
India Against Corruption (IAC) member Arvind Kejriwal had first levelled allegations against the BJP chief last Wednesday, related to land deals in Maharashtra. The latest allegations against Gadkari are about improper business dealings as chairman of the Purti group..
Media reports on Tuesday said an infrastructure company IRB gave a Gadkari-owned company a loan of Rs. 165 crore, two years after the IRB was awarded road contracts by Gadkari when he was the Maharashtra PWD minister.
The reports also said the addresses of some of the companies that had invested in Gadkari's company appeared to be dubious.
The BJP had said any competent authority could probe the charges, and the Congress seized on the statement.
"It is good that, for the first time, the opposition is saying that government probe agencies are competent enough to probe into the matter," said Dikshit.
However, Dikshit said no probe against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, who has been accused of corruption in land deals in Haryana involving realty major DLF, was needed as nothing has been established against him.
"There was nothing illegal in the allotment of land to DLF by the Haryana government nor did it cause any public loss," said Dikshit, claiming: "It is a frivolous allegation made by a few persons without any substantive facts."