A “clean chit” from the income-tax department has put the former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari back in the reckoning for the party’s top post if incumbent Rajnath Singh joins the Modi government, which exit polls have predicted.
Gadkari has told the party brass as well as PM candidate Narendra Modi he was ready to shoulder “any responsibility” -- in the party or the government. The offer is seen as a pitch to reclaim the president’s post or a senior position in the next government.
An I-T raid on the eve of Gadkari’s re-election in January 2013 had nipped his second innings at the helm, prompting the party to pick Singh as its chief.
Gadkari had faced accusations that dubious investments were made in his Purti group of companies. More than a year later, the I-T department, this week, conceded “no inquiry or investigation” was pending against the 57-year-old who is a contender for the Nagpur Lok Sabha seat.
Since Monday evening, the BJP leader is understood to have brought the I-T findings to the notice of Modi, Singh and party patriarch LK Advani as well as his mentors in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological parent. It was during a two-hour long meeting with Modi that Gadkari conveyed his willingness to take on “any responsibility”.
Gadkari will accompany Singh and senior party leader Arun Jaitley to Ahemedabad on Wednesday to discuss the BJP strategy ahead of May 16, the counting day.
Known for his proximity to top RSS leaders, including chief Mohan Bhagwat, Gadkari will have a real shot at the chief’s post if Rajnath Singh joins the government.
Singh, for the record, has made clear his intention to complete his tenure that ends December 2015. But a BJP leader hinted that the RSS could persuade Singh to join the Modi government “commensurate” with his standing in the party.
“A threadbare discussion on the steps forward would only take place after the election results,” the BJP leader said.
Gadkari was quick to dismiss his meetings were to negotiate return to the top post. “Modiji will decide what kind of role he will have for leaders. Party president Rajnath Singh will also decide,” Gadkari said.
But he may face competition from a section of the party that wants Modi aide Amit Shah to be elevated to the president’s post, given the “organisational skills” demonstrated during this poll season.
However, there are sceptics who wonder if the RSS would be as comfortable with Shah at the helm of the BJP as with Gadkari or Singh.