The RSS once again intervened to put a lid on the storm brewing within the BJP against party president Nitin Gadkari, but the damage could be contained only partly in the core group meeting on Tuesday.
After lawyer Ram Jethmalani publicly claimed that three senior party leaders — Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Shatrughan Sinha — had supported his demand for Gadkari’s ouster, RSS interlocutor S Gurumurthy reached out to top BJP leaders to “prove” that Gadkari was “clean”.
He also briefed the party’s core group and general secretaries late in the evening, leading to a BJP statement — signed by Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley — that the party stood behind Gadkari, who had committed “no legal or moral wrong”. It added that workers should not air views that damage the party’s image.
Although the RSS quelled the rising dissent against the chief, the resistance against his getting a second term still stays. Also, the absence of LK Advani — who had so far been seen as a status quoist — in the meeting was seen as indicative of his disapproval of a second term for Gadkari.
Jethmalani himself made only a partial shift from his stand after meeting Gurumurthy. He said he would check the documents himself before deciding on his future position on Gadkari.
What’s more, the joint statement of Swaraj and Jaitley was read by the party’s chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad. He explained the absence of some top leaders in the meeting thus: Advani had already been briefed on the matter, Gadkari recused himself and Venkaiah Naidu and Murli Manohar Joshi were not in town.
Earlier, the RSS came out openly in defence of the beleaguered BJP chief, saying he was subject to just a media trial and should not be judged before a formal probe, to which he had willingly offered himself. It had, however, added that this was the BJP’s internal matter.
The day began with Jethmalani saying he had written to Advani and Gadkari that the latter should step down in the interest of the party. But Swaraj promptly began Gadkari’s defence, tweeting that she had always supported him and would continue to do so.
BJP general secretary Dharmendra Pradhan told HT: “This is a structured party. The party stands by Gadkari. And how the party is to be run will be decided by the core group.”