4.17 pm: Congress calls for probe against Gadkari
The Congress party has denied allegations that it is shielding BJP President Nitin Gadkari, and said that they were calling for a probe into the allegations against him. Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit, who is the son of Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit, said that they would demand a probe into the matter.
Meanwhile fresh reports indicated that Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh had met the Prime Minister and submitted 'proof' against Gadkari to him.
And with probes upon probes being demanded by everyone, perhaps the most succinct summary of the situation comes from Ramesh Srivats:
Congress: INVESTIGATE GADKARI | BJP: INVESTIGATE VADRA | Kejriwal: INVESTIGATE BOTH. | Sharad Pawar: Hehehe.
— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) अक्टूबर 23, 2012
3.53 pm: Is the BJP more worried than they seem?
Firstpost Editor Sanjay Singh says that despite their public support of Gadkari, the party is sporting a more worried look in the wake of all the new allegations being leveled against its party President, Nitin Gadkari.
The unfolding revelations on the Purti Group have forced party leaders to look the other way. Even though he landed up in a TV studio to counter the charges against him and his group (one allegation is that his funds came from contractors who benefited from deals given by him during Sena-BJP rule), the cloud of suspicion refuses to lift. His answers have been less than convincing.
BJP insiders are asking if his hyped-up entrepreneurial ability is turning into a potential liability. The concern is that apart from damaging his own standing, it could affect the party’s image too.
2.24 pm: BJP continues to stand firmly behind Gadkari
The BJP continues to vocalise its support for Gadkari, despite a comment by senior leader Ram Jethmalani, asking Nitin Gadkari to step down. BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said that there was no question of the party being on the 'back foot' or being 'embarrassed' by the allegations against Gadkari, saying that they had clarified his innocence on numerous occasions and were willing to do so again, if required.
Naqvi's comment came on the back of a similar statement by Nirmala Sitharaman, where she said that the fact the Gadkari had said he was open to a probe was commendable, unlike the Congress party stand on Robert Vadra.
1.13 pm: MD of Purti group denies allegations, ready to face probe
The managing director of Purti sugar and business, a Nagpur based firm promoted by Nitin Gadkari, has spoken out against the allegations made against the company, saying that none of the investing companies in Purti were illegal, and adding they were ready to cooperate with any probe in to the matter.
The Managing Director admitted that it was true that Global Safety Vision gave Purti group funds, but said that these came in the form of a loan, which they were paying back in 73 installements. He also denied reports of fake addresses given by the group and said allegations that only people close to Gadkari have been directors of its investing companies were baseless, adding that Gadkari was no longer associated with the company.
1.00 pm: Corporate Affairs Minister calls for 'discreet probe' into Gadkari companies
Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily has said that he has asked the secretary of his ministry as well as the registrar of companies, to make 'discreet inquiries' into Gadkari's companies. Speaking to CNN-IBN, Moily said, "Since this matter has come to the public domain, I have authorised an inquiry and a report to be sent.'
Moily also rubbished claims that the Congress party was helping the BJP cover up in exchange for their silence on Vadra and Khurshid, and said that he only had the authority to probe a company's dealings if it had violated the Companies Act.
12.45 pm: Ram Jethmalani calls for Gadkari resignation
BJP leader Ram Jethmalani has called for the immediate resignation of BJP President Nitin Gadkari, saying that with serious allegations there was now serious suspicion against him. He added that Gadkari needed to step down in the interest of the party, as it was compromising the BJP campaign on corruption, and causing the public to lose faith in the party as a whole. He also said that there was no question of a second term for him.
Meanwhile a CNN-IBN investigation into some of the addresses of the companies provided by the Purti group promoted by BJP President Nitin Gadkari, has revealed even more murky details. One address is reportedly that of a Mumbai chawl, while the other is that of a building in Fort, South Mumbai, the owners of which deny that any such office exists there.
12.30 pm: BJP says Gadkari is open to an investigation
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman, has spoken out in defence of party President Nitin Gadkari, saying that he is open to an investigation and dared the Congress party to do the same with Robert Vadra.
"The BJP party president has himself said allegations levelled against him are baseless. He has appeared in media to explain his position. He has himself said that he is open to any investigations by any competent authority. The party endorses his view," Sitharaman said.
She added that the difference between the BJP and ruling Congress party facing a "list of corruption" charges lay in the fact that while Gadkari has said he is open to any investigation, the Congress was running away from answering questions and is not open to investigations.
"...you found cabinet ministers in the Union Cabinet coming out openly to say there is no need to investigate (against Vadra) in this matter. The difference lies in the
fact that BJP is always open and its ready to meet the press and to say they are open to investigation," she said.
Gadkari has come under increasing fire, after an NDTV expose over the weekend revealed that a company that won infrastructure projects during Mr Gadkari's term as minister of Maharashtra's Public Works Department, went on years later to invest in his business, Purti Power and Sugar.
It also transpired that many of the 'investor companies' in Purti were fictional.
More skeletons tumbled out of the Gadkari closet in fact, after a Times of India follow up to the NDTV expose, showed that apart from construction major Ideal Road Builders (IRB), a group of 16 companies had invested in the Purti group, most of which had directors who were associates of the BJP president or his family and were often headquartered in fictitious addresses.
Among the directors of the firms that invested in Purti group include Gadkari’s chaffeur, his accountant and two other employees in the group, one of whom is reportedly a friend of Gadkari’s son.
Between 2009-11, Gadkari’s chauffeur Manohar was the director of no less than six companies, the report found, And while even Sudhir Dive, managing director of Purti Power and Sugar Limited, didn’t deny the fact, he offered the defence that Panse is “now a director of only one company.” (Read more here)
12.15 pm: Analysis- Gadkari represents everything that’s wrong with BJP today
Firstpost Senior Editor Venky Vembu says that the Gadkari fiasco is a classic example of how the BJP is completely unable to use the Congress' spectacular fall from grace to its own advantage. He says,
"Much in the manner that we had suggested, an NDTV expose of Gadkari’s business transactions has seriously compromised the BJP’s ability to leverage Vadragate for political gain — particularly since Gadkari and his party are busy trotting out the same lame excuses that the Congress lays out in defence of Vadra.
Gadkari’s defence of his transactions with Ideal Road Builders and with Mhaiskar — “I can accept equity from anyone, there is nothing wrong. I am friends with Mr Mhaiskar and many contractors are my friends…” — sound like an eerie echo of the same excuse that the Congress lackeys trotted out in defence of Vadra’s land dealings with DLF."