A day before embattled BJP president Nitin Gadkari was slated to address a rally in the capital against corruption and FDI in retail, senior party leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday demanded his resignation over the Purti Group controversy.
The bombshell comes just two days before the winter session of Parliament, in which the BJP was planning to corner the government over retail FDI and graft.
"I call upon Nitin Gadkari, with all the humility at my command, to immediately step down from the post of party president," Sinha said.
"Whether our party president is guilty or not is not the issue today. The issue is that all of us in public life should be beyond reproach… it was my faith (in the party) that kept me from issuing this statement earlier. But, despite my best efforts, it was unable to take a decision on the matter."
Sinha's attack comes close on the heels of attacks by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani, his son Mahesh Jethmalani and BJP national executive member Jagdish Shettigar.
It will step up the pressure on Gadkari - under attack from a section of the BJP but backed by the RSS - just a month before his term expires and a second term is theoretically on the cards.
The BJP, in an official statement, disagreed with Sinha. Claiming that it was "inappropriate" on the part of Sinha to make a public statement when party forums were open for him as a senior leader, BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "The party appeals to him to reconsider his stand."
Stating that the BJP had maintained the "highest standards of conduct in the past", Sinha had earlier told PTI, "We have also deeply disappointed those who expected us to fight the mind-boggling corruption in the Congress."
He also termed RSS interlocutor S Gurumurthy's clean chit to Gadkari as a "questionable method of self-certification".
A few days ago, BJP leader Vinay Katiyar had expressed doubts over Gurumurthy's report. And now, with Sinha making his views clear, all eyes are on Jaswant Singh and Shatrughan Sinha - two other leaders who were also quoted by Jethmalani as being displeased with Gadkari's continuation as BJP chief.