New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was instrumental in making Nitin Gadkari the BJP president in 2009, is likely to stand by its man.
The Sangh is currently disinclined to pay any heed to a bundle of damaging revelations against Gadkari. In fact, today's newspaper reports, suggesting that the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate and various other government agencies, including the Registrar of Companies, are planning to launch their own investigations into the affairs of Gadkari's Purti Group, have only stiffened the RSS's decision to back it protege.
Sources told Firstpost that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat held a meeting with top Sangh functionaries today and they decided to "fully back" Gadkari and "not to ditch him in any way" despite the damaging nature of the allegations against him. The Sangh now views the raging controversy as not just Gadkari's personal hour of crisis but a systematic attack to malign the saffron upsurge after the UPA has been discrediting itself with various scams. They believe that the variety of revelations being doled out in "daily installments" is being orchestrated by the government's dirty tricks department in a bid to divert attention from the misdeeds of Robert Vadra. The idea is to paint the BJP with the same black brush on issues of corruption and probity.
A counter-strategy to minimise the party's image downslide and bring the focus back to the Congress' misadventures was also worked out. To begin with, Nitin Gadkari, and more possibly some key officials in his group, will break their silence to explain the more substantive allegations like the questionable source of funding, dubious directors and shell companies. A press conference could be held soon in Delhi or Mumbai. They hope that a reasonable explanation would be given to the supposedly uncomfortable questions.
Second, the Sangh could mount an offensive against Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, to hammer home the point that if various official agencies can go after Gadkari, why can't the Congress adopt the same line against a member of the first family?
If the issue was taken up yesterday by BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman, today former party president Rajnath Singh and known RSS protagonist took the lead in upping the ante by demanding an inquiry against Vadra. In fact, Rajnath Singh was one of the leaders in the BJP who had opposed any move to raise the Vadra issue when it was first reported in The Economic Times a year-and-a-half ago.
The clean chit given by the deputy commissioners of four Haryana districts—Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal and Mewat—to Robert Vadra’s land deals has given some ammunition to the BJP. Since 2004, Vadra is said to have acquired around 200 acres of land, including 74 acres in Palwal, 25 in Faridabad, 47 in Gurgaon and 27 in Mewat. There is outrage that after shunting out an upright IAS officer, Ashok Khemka, the Haryana government is going all out to protect Vadra.
The BJP will try to play victim: "Why should there be two standards, one for Vadra and another for Gadkari?" The party will seek the high moral ground by pointing out that Gadkari had voluntarily offered to submit to a probe, as mentioned in LK Advani’s nuanced support vis-à-vis Vadra. After a brief break following an internally imposed gag order in the past few days, one can now expect BJP leaders to hit the TV studios with some renewed resolve.
On the growing resentment among a section of BJP leaders about this sudden and undesired loss of face regarding Gadkari, a leader with equal clout in the BJP and the RSS said that there could be concerns on this score, "but right or wrong, a decision on Gadkari’s fate will not be taken by the BJP leadership in Delhi but by the RSS in Nagpur. Since that is a settled issue, the issue before the BJP leadership is how to cut their losses, effectively curb the insider role in the revelations, and how to mount a counter-offensive against the Congress."
No one in the BJP contests that point - RSS control. But a good number of leaders believe that the turn of events would make it untenable for Mohan Bhagwat to bless his chosen protégé with a second term when the time comes in December. In the meanwhile, the all-important Gujarat elections would be over.