Rajnath Singh, not Nitin Gadkari to be BJP President as script changes at last moment

FP

In a surprise move that came less than 24 hours before the planned re-election of Nitin Gadkari as BJP president, leaders of the party and RSS Tuesday yielded to pressure from Gadkari's opponents and decided to give the top job to Rajnath Singh after being spooked by fresh income-tax inquiries into companies linked to Gadkari.

On a day filled with drama and intrigue, party leaders Prakash Javadekar, Shahnawaz Hussain and Ravishankar Prasad took turns to defend Gadkari by calling the income-tax probe politically motivated, while top party brass Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu, Ram Lal and Ananth Kumar went into a huddle late in the evening in the capital.

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Singh, however, was conspicuous by his absence.

The two other key leaders, Gadkari and L K Advani, were in Mumbai participating in an event that was also being attended by the RSS number two, Bhaiyyaji Joshi. The three are also learnt to have discussed their next course of action.

After the meetings in the two cities managed to zero in on a name, the leaders in Delhi called Singh and informed him about their decision. Gadkari, on his part, issued a statement saying he would not contest Wednesday's election.

"I have committed no wrong or any impropriety either directly or indirectly. Yet the UPA government has been making an effort to spread disinformation about me in order to hurt me and my party.I do not wish that this should in any way adversely affect the interest of the BJP. I have therefore decided not to seek a second term as the president of the BJP," Gadkari said.

Subsequently, party general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal, who is the RSS pointperson in the BJP, drove down to Singh's house for a meeting. Following this, Singh was seen taking calls from party leaders and accepting congratulations.

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