The BJP on Tuesday came out in support of beleaguered party chief Nitin Gadkari, who faces allegations of financial impropriety in his business dealings, saying a probe had shown that he had done "no legal or moral wrong".
Addressing the media after a two-hour meeting of its core group, Bharatiya Janata Party chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that the party "endorses Gadkari's stand that he is ready and willing to face a probe" into his business dealings.
Gadkari has been under attack for alleged dubious funding of his Purti Group. He has denied the charges.
According to Prasad, senior BJP leaders had called chartered accountant S. Gurumurthy to the meeting to apprise them of his findings after going through the documents provided by Gadkari.
Prasad read out a joint statement by senior party leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley which said:
"The meeting accepted the presentation of Gurumurthy that there was no legal or moral wrongdoing by Gadkari."
"The party endorses the stand of Gadkari that he is ready and willing to face an enquiry.
"He has no direct or indirect interest in the 18 investment companies that have invested in Purti Group.
"The party has full faith in the leadership of Gadkari.
"The party appeals to all its leaders and workers not to air such views in public which hurt the image of the party."
Earlier, the BJP appeared divided on party president Nitin Gadkari as senior leader LK Advani skipped a crucial meeting of its core group apparently unhappy over his continuance in the post.
Advani chose not to go to the meeting in the party office on a day of hectic activities triggered by the demand for Gadkari's resignation by party MP Ram Jethmalani in the wake of allegations of dubious funding for his company Purti.
Just before the core group meeting, senior leaders Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar and Balbir Punj met Advani, apparently to persuade him not to push for Gadkari's exit.
Earlier, Swaraj tweeted to reiterate her support to Gadkari and deny media reports that she was not supporting him.
The core group meeting topped a series of consultations among senior leaders, with Gadkari driving to the residences of Swaraj and Arun Jaitley to discuss the situation.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari is seen in New Delhi. PTI
A day after his son Mahesh quit the BJP national executive protesting against Gadkari's continuance, Jethmalani raised the pitch for the resignation of the party chief and claimed that some other senior leaders like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha were with him on the issue.
RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy appeared to take the role of a mediator as he met Advani and later Jethmalani in a bid to persuade him to relent on the issue.
Jethmalani said he would like to check the documents on the basis of which Gadkari is claiming innocence.
Meanwhile, two senior party leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Vinay Katiyar held a separate meeting and are understood to have shared the view that BJP's image had suffered because of allegations against Gadkari and something needed to be done immediately.
(With inputs from IANS, PTI)