BJP president Nitin Gadkari dodged a bullet late on Friday, after the party came out in his support in the face of allegations of impropriety surrounding his business dealings. But the man is clearly living on borrowed time, and it seems near-certain that he won't be anointed for a second term as party president.
Late on Friday, there were reports, citing BJP sources, that Gadkari had offered to resign. But still later at night, after a meeting of the BJP's top leaders at Gadkari's residence in New Delhi, party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar dismissed the report as "baseless and untrue."
"Since Nitin Gadkari has himself offered to face any inquiry, the unanimous view of the party is that it is solidly behind him. All media speculation about his resignation are baseless and untrue," Javadekar told reporters.
The declaration of the party's support for Gadkari came after a meeting attended by Gadkari, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley, general secretary Vijay Goel and party spokespersons, including Javadekar.
Earlier in the evening, Gadkari arrived in Delhi from Nagpur - and called on senior BJP leader LK Advani; but not much is known of what transpired at that one-on-one meeting.
On Saturday, Gadkari will leave for election campaigning in Himachal Pradesh as scheduled.
But CNN-IBN reported that although Gadkari may have survived for now, it is merely a matter of time before he is compelled to step down.
"Gadkari will remain party president for a while - perhaps a couple of weeks, perhaps a little longer, but given the perceptional damage that he is causing to the party, his continuance in office or his reappointment as president for a second term, will prove difficult. Gadkari will eventually have to do," the report added.
Evidently, one of the factors that weighed with party leaders and with RSS while supporting him, at least for today, is that if Gadkari were forced to resign under these circumstances, when his business dealings are under a cloud, his career could be as good as over.
But the irony is that there is at least a section within the BJP that wants to see happen.
Gadkari, however, managed to save the day for himself by offering a Powerpoint presentation about his business dealings, and convinced the RSS that he had done no wrong, and that a section of the BJP was against him.
All though the day, more revelations about the shell companies that are invested in Gadkari's Purti group tumbled out. And at one point, it appeared that the RSS was preparing to let go of the "Nagpur boy" that it had groomed for BJP presidency. RSS sources were quoted as saying that the RSS had "nothing to do with the allegations over the corporate dealings of any individual" and that it "wants an impartial probe as well as punishment of the guilty."
But over the course of the day, the RSS came to see the the controversy surrounding Gadkari as the manifestation of not just a political battle between the BJP and the Congress but, more importantly as the repercussions of infighting within the BJP, particularly in the context of the unresolved leadership issue within the BJP.
The RSS also reasoned that since Gadkari was "its man", so to speak, for him to be removed unceremoniously in this fashion, in the thick of a controversy, would mean that the RSS' hold over the BJP would have slackened.
It therefore conveyed a message to the political leadership of the BJP that if Gadkari were forced to resign now, it would recoil on the party in the context of the upcoming elections to the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat Assemblies, since the Congress would make a big issue of it.
Now that the BJP has come out in "unanimous" support of Gadkari, the party will likely look to brazen it out in the face of the Congress' likely attempt to make political capital out of it.
Even so, it appears that Gadkari is skating on very thin ice. He may have survived for now, but it's just a matter of time before his political obituary is written.
With inputs from PTI