BJP breaks silence and offers Gadkari support, cautiously

FP

After closing themselves to questions for a day, top BJP leaders on Wednesday came out in guarded defence of their party president, saying it was unfair to hold him guilty of alleged wrongdoings even before a probe.

But they stopped short of giving Nitin Gadkari a clean chit on allegations over the business dealings of his Purti Group, and L K Advani made the point that the president of the BJP must hold himself to a standard that is higher than the one it demands of its political opponents.

A BJP source aware of the disagreements within the party over a second presidential term for Gadkari summed up Wednesday's reactions: "Nitinji ko mohlat mili hai, abhaydaan nahin [Nitinji has got time (to prove his innocence), not an assurance that he has nothing to fear]."

Advani was first off the blocks Wednesday morning, suggesting that the allegations against Gadkari were "about standards of business and not misuse of power or corruption", and congratulating the BJP president for "voluntarily asking for an inquiry".

"It is a fair and proper response," Advani said in a press statement.

Later, Sushma Swaraj tweeted, "It is unjust and unfair to accept these allegations as true without a probe. We the members of BJP trust our president and stand firmly behind him."

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley pointed out that Gadkari "has already taken correct steps to express his readiness to face a probe by any agency".

These statements came after the RSS said it was up to the BJP to decide on the fate of Gadkari, who had looked set to become party president a second time before allegations about shell companies investing in his enterprises surfaced.

In their statements, Advani, Swaraj and Jaitley indicated that their support was only meant for "our president" against the UPA's "strategy to paint the entire political class with the same brush to minimise and escape its unpardonable sins".

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