This is the BJP version of the boy standing on the burning deck. With the difference that the ‘boy’ in question, the party’s president Nitin Gadkari still has the support of many top leaders. But ultimately, this will count for little if the investigations which have been initiated by the registrar of companies into his business dealings in Mumbai and Nagpur find some truth in the irregularities which he is being accused of. To his credit, Mr Gadkari has not shied away from any probe into his seemingly dodgy business transactions. But, the larger issue is the effect this will have on the party at a time when there are crucial elections coming up in some states.
The party had hoped to corner the UPA government on the corruption issue which has been the burden of India Against Corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal’s song. But, now with the allegations of illegal business dealings coming to rest on Mr Gadkari’s doorstep, the party can no longer assume the high moral ground on this. If this has been a drag on the BJP, it has been catastrophic for Mr Gadkari who has just won the endorsement of the RSS for a second term as party president. There are sections within the party which have been pressing for Mr Gadkari to step down. There are, on the other hand, also some like former BJP president LK Advani and heavyweights like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley who have been openly supportive of him. But the RSS, which ultimately calls the shots in the party, has been silent on Mr Gadkari and has, in fact, called for a relentless fight against corruption.
The fact that Mr Gadkari has chosen to stay in Nagpur and not come to Delhi suggests that he has his task cut out, that of persuading the RSS top brass that it needs to put its weight behind him. Of course, the BJP has sought to reject any moral equivalence between it and Congress on the issue of corruption. But the damage to the BJP is already done, as it has been to the Congress. Every day seems to bring to light some fresh information which is damaging to Mr Gadkari. For the moment though all around him have not fled as with the boy on the burning deck, it really remains to be seen how much support he can drum up in the days to come.