Nitin Gadkari resigns; Rajnath Singh likely to be next BJP president


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New Delhi: Rajnath Singh has been picked as the new president of the main opposition party, the BJP, which will continue the tradition of electing its leader unopposed.

Nitin Gadkari resigns; Rajnath Singh likely to be next BJP president

Current president Nitin Gadkari, who is expected to reach Delhi on a late night flight from Mumbai, has resigned. In a short statement issued before he left Mumbai, Mr Gadkari said, "I have committed no wrong or any impropriety either directly or indirectly. 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."

Till this evening, Mr Gadkari appeared unwilling to relinquish his claim on an unprecedented second consecutive term, but an income tax investigation failed his chances. He is expected to formally propose Mr Singh’s name as his successor. The last date for filing nominations is tomorrow.

Mr Singh has served as president earlier; his new term has been endorsed by the BJP’s ideological mentor the RSS, which till recently refused to back anyone but Mr Gadkari, who it had handpicked for the party’s top job in 2009. Sources said the RSS picked Mr Singh after senior BJP leaders opposed a second term for Mr Gadkari.

At a function in Mumbai earlier this evening, Mr Gadkari shared the stage with LK Advani. The two hardly spoke - unsurprising given that Mr Advani has been the loudest voice in the campaign to have Mr Gadkari replaced. Just before the function, sources said, at a meeting with Mr Advani and an RSS leader this evening, Mr Gadkari offered to withdraw his candidacy and proposed that Rajnath Singh be made the new president. Mr Advani had earlier said no to Mr Singh too, but preferred him or "any candidate" to Mr Gadkari, the sources said.

Mr Advani and Mr Gadkari’s other detractor Yashwant Sinha have been arguing that installing him in office once again will dent party’s credibility in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

Mr Gadkari has dismissed the IT investigation centred around the Purti Group, which he founded in 2000, as an orchestration by the Congress-led UPA government to malign him. He said in his statement that, "the UPA government has been making an effort to spread disinformation about me in order to hurt me and my party. I have always said that I am willing for any independent enquiry. I shall fight these efforts of this government both politically and legally."

Earlier in the evening, he released two other statements, both accusing the government of orchestrating an income tax investigation to damage his reputation. The uncertainty of his future was clear - in the first statement, Mr Gadkari referred to the inquiry as coinciding with " the eve of his re-election as BJP President for a second term." Minutes later, Take 2 referred only to "...the eve of the election as BJP President..."

Meanwhile, in Delhi, a group of senior leaders like Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj met and arrived at a consensus on Mr Singh. Mr Advani has reportedly suggested that Ms Swaraj should be made the next president of the party, but it was decided that frontline leaders like her, Mr Jaitley and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should not be pulled out from their current roles, sources said.

This week, Mr Gadkari was summoned for questioning by income tax officials. He has asked for exemption till February 1 on the ground that he is busy with party work. Today, income tax officials visited eight different locations in Mumbai linked to 24 different firms that invested in or did business with the Purti Group. Sources say the addresses listed for the firms were bogus, proving that they were ghost investors.

Mr Gadkari quit as Chairman of Purti in 2011. In October last year, NDTV reported that Purti appeared to be propped up by a labyrinth of firms that existed only on paper. Many of them shared addresses and directors. Some of them listed their addresses in tenements where offices do not exist.
Comments on this Article
Jossey Saldanha, Mangalore/Mapusa/Mumbai Tue, January-22-2013, 10:55
BJP is a honest party. Corrupt Presidents have to be booted.........
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