On a day of dramatic changes in the span of a few hours, the apple cart of BJP consensus on a second straight term for Nitin Gadkari as BJP president collapsed, exposing the chinks in the main opposition party.
At a meeting at Arun Jaitley’s house late on Tuesday — LK Advani was away in Mumbai — top party leaders, including Sushma Swaraj, former presidents Venkaiah Naidu and Rajnath Singh, besides others, decided that it was not right to re-elect Gadkari for a second term, and that change was imperative. The income tax (I-T) department inquiries raids on Tuesday at some of the companies Gadkari was formerly associated with, too, served as a trigger for the decision to drop him from the race.
Gadkari will offer his resignation at the central parliamentary board meeting on Wednesday morning. Rajnath Singh, who is set to file his nomination papers, is pipped to win.
Naidu told DNA that the central parliamentary board, the highest decision-making body in the party, will meet on Wednesday and decide as to who should succeed Gadkari. Asked if Rajnath Singh is in the race, he felt that it was too early to say anything about the next president and that it will hinge on the decision taken at the meeting.
Another senior leader claimed that the I-T department’s inquiries were not the final straw, and that there were other issues against Gadkari’s re-nomination. He also indicated that Advani was opposed to Gadkari’s second term as party president.
The confusion in the party is apparent because Wednesday was the day the process of presidential election was to get going, and despite rumours of Mahesh Jethmalani and Yashwant Sinha threatening to challenge him, it was felt that Gadkari would sail through.
According to a source within the BJP, there was no consensus till the last moment on Gadkari’s second term. This is being put forward as an argument that this whole process of choosing the president was entirely a BJP affair and the RSS had no role to play. The source emphasised this to counter the talk that Gadkari was looking at a second term of presidency despite murmurs of dissent because the RSS wanted him. The source added that the last-minute change shows that there was active consultation within the party ranks and that consensus eluded them.
This is one of the rare times that much controversy has surrounded the BJP presidential election. The last time such confusion had reigned was when Advani had stepped down as president after his remark about Jinnah in Karachi. With Gadkari out of the way, it looks like there will be no contest.
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