The case is curious. It is well known that the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nitin Gadkari, has business interests. His Purti Power and Sugar Ltd is not exactly an unknown company. In recent days, it has faced charges of “improper” funding through shell companies. The details of many of these companies are not clear. In many cases, the directors of these companies are known aides of Gadkari. These are allegations that need to be investigated.
This is not a simple matter of a political party and its leader being in trouble. For one, the BJP is the leading opposition party. In a democracy, strong credentials are far more important for the opposition than for the ruling party. This is more so in the Indian case, as it is now almost axiomatic that ruling parties will indulge in practices that are less than wholesome. In such a situation, if the lead opposition party too is tarred, this is bad news from the perspective of democratic practice.
Even more important is the question of politics and governance after 2014. There are two issues here. The political travails of the two leading parties—the Congress and the BJP—can only mean one thing: the opening of the doors of power in New Delhi for the regional lot. And that can only be bad news for India. The country faces innumerable challenges that require a strong central leadership. Regional parties, by their very constitution, are incapable of that job. Under their rule, the Union government is likely to serve only one function—that of a cash-dispensing machine for state governments.
More practically, if the BJP does not remove Gadkari and agrees to a probe, it will risk alienating a part of the middle class, an important bloc of its support base. With the assorted anti-corruption “movements” and mindless politics around the issue, the scenario highlighted above appears to be quite realistic by the time the general election is held.
If only for these reasons, the BJP should do what is needed. It should not fall into the trap that if Gadkari goes, that will open it to the charge from the Congress and other parties that there was, indeed, something amiss. The ruling coalition has little credibility and the United Progressive Alliance government is bereft of legitimacy. The BJP should have faith that Indians can sift the truth from mere accusations. And if Gadkari is indeed guilty of wrongdoing, he should face justice. His party should not pay the price for his actions.
Should political leaders have extensive business interests?