Rajnath Singh, not Nitin Gadkari to be BJP President as script changes at last moment
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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.
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.
A formal decision, however, will be taken Wednesday morning at the meeting of the parliamentary board, after which Singh will file his nomination papers. The results are likely to be announced by early afternoon.
Earlier in the day though, the entire script appeared to be in favour of Gadkari with his confidantes preparing to file his nomination papers. The first indication that Gadkari's fortunes were changing came when the BJP "corrected" a statement it issued on the income-tax action, dropping a reference to Gadkari's "re-election".
The original statement, released by the BJP on Gadkari's behalf, read: "Coming as it does on the eve of his re-election as BJP president for a second term, the I-T department's action smacks of the ruling UPA's nefarious designs to create confusion in BJP ranks." This was changed to, "Coming as it does on the eve of election of BJP president...."
While Gadkari's supporters still remained unfazed, the final twist came when the chief electoral officer for the party elections, Thawarchand Gehlot, went public and announced that senior party leader Yashwant Sinha, who had demanded Gadkari's resignation weeks earlier, had taken nomination papers for the election. This was another indication of the unease in sections of the party over Gadkari's decision to contest the elections.
It was only after this that the party's senior leaders went into a huddle and decided to push Singh's name. Singh, who will preside over the party during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, told reporters that he saw the responsibility as a great challenge and he would try his best.
TWIST IN THE TALE
3 PM: Shahnawaz Hussain defends Gadkari; Prakash Javadekar did the same after I-T inquiries against investing firms in Gadkari's Purti Group in the morning
4 PM: Gadkari slams govt's "politically motivated" action against his "re-election"
4.45 PM: BJP "corrects" statement, replaces 're-election' with "election"
5 PM: Chief Electoral Officer Thawarchand Gehlot reveals Yashwant Sinha might contest
7 PM: BJP brass goes into huddle in Delhi
9 PM: Rajnath is informed
10 PM: Gadkari announces he is pulling out. Gen Secy (Org) Ram Lal visits Rajnath at home. BJP parliamentary board meets at 9.30 am on Wednesday
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