BJP leaders went into a huddle yesterday as the internal rift over party president Nitin Gadkari widened with more demands for his ouster while the man in the proverbial centre of the growing storm said sorry for comparing Swami Vivekananda to Dawood Ibrahim.
Gadkari has been facing the heat over alleged involvement of a company linked to him in questionable business deals and remarks on Monday comparing the IQ levels of spiritual guru Vivekananda and fugitive don Dawood.
Yesterday, the pressure for his ouster mounted with outspoken MP Ram Jethmalani saying that senior leaders Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Shatrughan Sinha were with him in wanting Gadkari to step down. “We four are of clear view that a resignation of Gadkari is necessary,” Ram Jethmalani said, adding that he had also written a letter to party veteran LK Advani calling for the immediate resignation of Gadkari.
“... We are unanimous in our views and I have no doubt about it. They have not expressed them publicly and I hope they will express soon,” the Rajya Sabha MP said.
The day before, his son Mahesh Jethmalani had quit the national executive of the party over Gadkari continuing as party chief.
The demands for Gadkari’s resignation forced the party leadership into a series of separate meetings involving Advani, Gadkari as well as Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
Party insiders said S Gurmurthy, considered close to the RSS, also met some BJP leaders. Later in the evening, the top leadership will meet to study the developments.
Chilly winter for BJP?
Informed sources said Ram Jethmalani’s demands for Gadkari’s ouster found resonance in sections of the party that felt that his continuing as president would rob the BJP of the moral high ground on corruption in the winter session of parliament beginning Nov 22.
The choice of next president is also crucial for the BJP as the leader will see the party through a string of assembly polls next year and the 2014 Lok Sabha ballot.
Besides, the party is in the middle of campaigning for the crucial Gujarat assembly polls in December and questions are likely to be raised by the Congress concerning Gadkari.
Gadkari did not go for the second round of campaigning in the just concluded Himachal Pradesh elections.
A party leader said on the condition of anonymity that the troubles faced by Gadkari have provided an opportunity for senior leaders of the party to position themselves as candidates for the president’s post.
Gadkari, who had on Monday denied ever comparing Vivekananda and Dawood, yesterday expressed regret for doing so.
“I would like to reiterate that I never compared Swami Vivekananda with anyone. I had absolutely no intention to project Swami Vivekananda in bad light. If my words about Swami Vivekananda have hurt the public sentiment in any manner, I express my sincere regret,” Gadkari said.
“My personal reverence for Swami Vivekananda is second to none. In that context I had referred to Swami Vivekananda dedicating his intellect for the welfare of humanity. I am deeply pained to note that my words have been taken out of context to create confusion,” he reiterated.
Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, came out with a clarification. “The media reports that I’m not supporting Nitin Gadkari are false. I have always supported him and I reiterate my support,” she said.