After Jethmalanis, national exec member Shettigar questions Gadkari

New Delhi: Ram Jethmalani may have been temporarily silenced by a swift RSS initiated retaliatory action but the voices of concern in the BJP against their own party president are growing. What could make Gadkari’s Nagpur based patrons feel the heat is that some of those who are deeply aggrieved at the turn of events are from the RSS background and have done long years of service in the Sangh Parivar and the BJP.

An RSS worker since childhood and BJP National Executive committee member, Jagdish Shettigar admitted in an exclusive interview with Firstpost that the questionable sources of funding around Gadkari promoted Purti Group has damaged the party’s image and as a “true swayamsewak, Gadkariji should “introspect” and take a decision “as per his conscience” and in the party’s interest. In other words, Shettihgar is clearly asking Gadkari to resign but would not say in as many words because he is “bound by party discipline”.

On Saturday, Shettigar maintained that public perception is important and Gadkari should step down till the process of investigations is completed.

Responding to a question on how much the Purti controversy has dented the BJP’s image, Shettigar said: “There is no doubt about that. It has hurt the image of our party in public's mind. I don’t have any proof because I have not gone into the details. In politics public perception is very important because it gets tested in very next election. For us the next elections are very important.

Perceptions are important, says the senior RSS leader. AFP

“Whether a person is really guilty or innocent can be confirmed by the authorities concerned. But the people are not going to wait that long. They will act on basis of their perception. I am equally concerned about that. Public perception is far more important in politics than what might ultimately turn out to be the truth. The Yeddyurappa example is a case in point – he has not been declared guilty but there is a strong public perception of his wrong doing and was thus had to quit chief minister’s post.”

Should Gadkari resign, Shettigar says, “As I am bound by party discipline, I will not comment on that part. Gadkari, being a good swayamsewak should take a step in overall interest of nation and the party. As we in the BJP put nation first, party second and individual last, he should introspect and act per his conscience. There is also a precedent in the party when LK Advani resigned in wake of hawala charges against him.”

When he was asked if he had made the party or Sangh leadership aware of his concerns, Shetiigar said, “I believe in party discipline, I write to party leadership but I don’t leak (a dig at Jethmalani)."

Shettigar, an economist by vocation, has been a part of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and National Security Advisory Board during the Vajpayee Government. Unlike the Jethmalanis, father Ram and son Mahesh, Shettigar's, a National Executive member since 1991, views can’t be dismissed easily because he is far more an insider, rooted in Parivar’s philosophy than most at the top. He advocates for setting up an institutionalized mechanism to deal with such situations of corruption, character and such other issues, not just for the BJP but for other parties also.

“There should be an internal mechanism through which an organization could identify such undesirable activities and take timely action so that the party’s and nation’s image is not harmed. Without going into the names of individuals it can be said it is like a general disease that concerns not just the BJP but all political parties. Since all political parties are supposedly committed to the national interest they should seriously think of correcting the system. There should be an in-built system whereby such people should be identified and sidelined immediately.”

“As political parties have a larger leader and worker base there can’t be a full proof method but it can be minimised to protect the image of the party. The Congress or the BJP react only after the damage is done”, Shettigar said.

The fact that Shettigar spoke clearly about his feelings is an indicator that there are not many takers for the RSS guided joint statement issued after a hurriedly called fire fighting core group meeting on Tuesday night, which said, “the meeting accepted the presentation of Shri. Gurumurthy that there was no legal or moral wrong doing by Shri Nitin Gadkari”.

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