The pressure on BJP president Nitin Gadkari to quit following accusations of business irregularities intensified on Monday when legal expert Mahesh Jethmalani resigned from the party national executive and Gadkari hurt himself by “likening” Swami Vivekananda to underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
Though the RSS has been backing its protégé till now, even while maintaining a strategic distance, the controversies are casting a shadow on the possibility of Gadkari getting a second term as party chief.
Jethmalani’s resignation letter to Gadkari said, “Dear Nitinji, I deem it morally and intellectually inappropriate to continue to serve on the party’s national executive committee as long as you are the president of the BJP. I, hereby, tender my resignation from the same.”
Gadkari suffered another setback on Monday as senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh expressed oblique dissatisfaction with the goings-on in the party in an article in Indian Express, referring to “a serious crisis of credibility, both about the governing establishment and the Opposition”.
Later, Jethmalani cited two reasons for his decision — Gadkari’s explanation on charges relating to the Purti Group was not satisfactory and his “comparing” Vivekananda with Dawood was absurd.
Not a single senior BJP leader came out in support of Gadkari, while party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy voiced only muted support.
Rudy said the leakage of Jethmalani’s resignation letter had damaged the party. Rudy said Gadkari had himself offered to be probed and labelled Jethmalani’s letter as “public posturing”.
Gadkari had landed himself in fresh trouble on Sunday when he said in a function in Bhopal: “If we consider scientifically, then Swami Vivekananda and Dawood Ibrahim might have the same IQ.
However, Dawood used it for wrongdoings and became the emperor of the criminal world, whereas Swami Vivekananda used his intelligence for welfare of the society and nation and became a source of inspiration for the entire world."
The Congress, however, promptly attacked him, apparently twisting the meaning of his remark and alleging that he compared Vivekananda with Dawood.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh asked whether Narendra Modi and his fans had any comment to make on this. Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari saw this as “yet another manifestation of their culture and mentality”.
Gadkari later said he had been misquoted. "I did not make any comparison between Swami Vivekananda and Dawood Ibrahim. What I said was that if one used one’s intelligence properly then one could become a saint like Swami Vivekananda.”
RSS ideologue MG Vaidya and Sangh national media cell convenor Manmohan Vaidya feigned ignorance about Gadkari’s Vivekananda remark. A leader considered close to the RSS, however, insisted that these developments would not affect the continuation of Gadkari in the top post.