LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj back Nitin Gadkari

Nitin Gadkari

BJP leaders L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday came to party chief Nitin Gadkari's rescue, saying it was unfair to hold him guilty of alleged wrongdoings even before a probe.

Advani was first off the block, 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, 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 also pointed out that Gadkari "has already taken correct steps to express his readiness to face a probe by any agency".

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

However, in their statements, the party leaders stopped short of giving Gadkari a clean chit. They 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".

They also hinted that their backing was subject to Gadkari clearing his name, with Advani underlining that the incumbent BJP president would have to be tested against a more stringent yardstick, befitting the requirements of a party with difference.

"I am of the view that the BJP should be different and should not claim immunity on either the scale or nature of the allegations," Advani said, reiterating something he had said at the party's National Council meeting last month.

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