Ritesh K Srivastava
Ideally, as the head of the main opposition party, Nitin Gadkari should have guided BJP in sharpening its attack on the Congress in the wake Coalgate and other multi-crore scams facing the ruling UPA coalition, but it is not so.
Gadkari himself is under the scanner, battling serious allegations of corporate fraud, and the Congress’ counter-attack on BJP on the issue of corruption has put main opposition party on the back foot.
Allegations of dubious funding patterns in Gadkari’s businesses has cast a shadow over his chances of becoming BJP president for the second time in December.
With Gadkari landing in deep trouble, BJP’s parent organization, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) is reportedly worried that the unpleasant developments surrounding its key man will hamper saffron party`s image perilously close to the next elections.
Furthermore, the increasing attack by Congress and India Against Corruption (IAC) led by Arvind Kejriwal on Gadkari has weakened BJP’s political stand on the issue of corruption and its campaign against the graft-tainted UPA government.
The party, which had made corruption as it main electoral plank to take on the ruling coalition, is finding itself helpless in the wake of charges of financial impropriety against the man, who is at the helm of its affairs, coupled with demands of a government probe into source of funds for Gadkari’s businesses.
The issue has forced the RSS top brass to rethink on a second term for Gadkari and the speculation is rife on whether it’s the end of his political career. Although talks about an immediate change of guard at the apex level in BJP is being ruled out till the Assembly Elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, it may very well happen that Gadkari himself opts out.
Interestingly, the RSS top brass is due to meet in mid November to take a decision on Gadkari, whose first term as BJP chief ends of January 17.
Gadkari’s sudden fall from grace has come as a major embarrassment for the RSS, which handpicked him to head its political arm. As a proof of Gadkari’s strong links in the RSS, rules were amended at BJP’s recently concluded Surajkund conclave to allow a second term for all elected office-bearers, much to the chagrin of many top party leaders.
Gadkari’s decline has added to the RSS’ dilemma since it can neither abandon the man it chose and supported for the top job, nor can it concede to the political pressure created by Congress and, more particularly, Arvind Kejriwal.
Surprisingly, Gadkari was invited as the chief guest at an event where RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat delivered his annual Vijayadashmi address at Nagpur’s Reshimbagh ground on Wednesday.
Clearly, the word from the RSS headquarters is that the Sangh Parivar is not yet ready to dump him but insiders believe that fresh “revelations” may actually force the right-wing organization to rethink on Gadkari. Till then, it appears that the Sangh Parivar would stick to the ‘wait-and-watch’ policy to buy time to build a strong case for its man.
However, it is not the only thing that baffles the Sangh Parivar. With the fresh wave of allegations building a negative environment for Gadkari, the RSS top brass is aware that it also cannot remain “impervious” to the current crisis.
The Gadkari issue has struck hard the RSS’s long-practiced ideal of probity in public life and bemused its grass root cadre, which is questioning the silence of its ideological fountainhead.
For BJP, which normally toes the RSS line, the allegations against Gadkari have made it difficukt to position itself firmly in the battle against corruption.
The RSS’ silence on the issue and delay in action against Gadkari has prompted Congress and IAC to attack BJP on its double standards and lack of ethics. BJP and the RSS leaders have long preached its workers about ‘character building’ and setting high examples of integrity in public life, but this notion has fallen flat this time.
A conflict of interests between Gadkari’s business obligations and his responsibilities as the head of a national party has been proven by devastating expose by the media. It is for obvious reasons that Gadkari, caught in the eye of a political storm, now denies conflict of interest in his role as a politician and a businessman. In his defence, Gadkari says, his role as a businessman has ceased to be pertinent after he took charge as the BJP chief.