New Delhi: An ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has suggested that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi could have been behind a recent effort to force Nitin Gadkari to step down as president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), seemingly reinforcing speculation about a rift within the principal opposition party.
Both RSS, the ideological parent of the BJP, and the party itself distanced themselves from the suggestion made by M.G. Vaidya, who is also a veteran Marathi journalist. Some analysts said Vaidya’s comments on his blogsite seemed to be another indicator of intrigue within the BJP on Gadkari’s re-election as party chief.
Vaidya wrote that senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Ram Jethmalani’s demand that Gadkari step down from his post and Modi be projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 general election was a pointer that Modi was behind the effort.
“There is still time to decide who will be the prime minister...it is also true that some parties declare their prime minister candidate and then fight elections. The BJP had fought three Lok Sabha elections after declaring Atal Bihari Vajypayee in 1996, 1997 and 1999 (as prime ministerial candidate). Modi will also get this opportunity but, as of now, there are no signs as such,” he wrote in Marathi. His remarks were translated into Hindi.
Vaidya said the BJP will decide its general elections strategy only after state assembly elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka in 2013.
Jethmalani’s demand and his son Mahesh Jethmalani’s resignation from the BJP national executive followed allegations in media reports that Gadkari had favoured a construction company during his days as public works minister in the Maharashtra government in return for investments in Gadkari’s Purti Group through shell companies.
The party eventually papered over the cracks by ranging behind Gadkari to avoid distractions ahead of the crucial elections in Gujarat next month. Whether Gadkari will win another term as party chief will be known next month, when the party’s presidential election is due.
Vaidya said Jethmalani’s demand had put a question mark on a second term for Gadkari,
“My guess is that...there are some people within the BJP who do not want Gadkari to be re-elected. Modi thinks that with Gadkari as a party president, his chances of becoming prime minister are less,” he wrote on his blog.
Vaidya told reporters at this residence that there seemed to be “unrest” in the BJP “and the lack of solidarity is evident in the party with members openly expressing their resentment”.
Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst, said senior RSS functionaries would have known in advance about Vaidya’s comments. Gadkari is said to be close to the RSS leadership and is thought to have been responsible for his ascension to the party president’s post.
“This is not any innocuous statement,” Mrug said. “The RSS is sending a strong signal down the line that ‘look we know who is behind this conspiracy against Gadkari within the party’. They cannot easily hit their man (Gadkari) and get away lightly.”
RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said Vaidya’s views were personal and “RSS does not endorse them”.
BJP president Gadkari was quick to deny Vaidya’s charges.
“My attention has been drawn to a Marathi blog written by M.G. Vaidya, a senior journalist. The writer has tried to link recent comments by one of the party MPs with Narendra Modi. The BJP completely rejects such insinuation, as it is totally unfounded,” Gadkari said in a statement.
“All central leaders of the party and its chief ministers have been working cohesively and unitedly for the cause of the party. We are fighting Gujarat assembly elections with complete unity of purpose and total mutual confidence. BJP is firmly and unitedly behind Narendra Modi and we are confident that the party will win decisively in the ensuing assembly elections,” he said.
The Gujarat assembly elections are scheduled on 13 and 17 December and their outcome may be key to Modi’s ambition to play a bigger role on the national stage. Modi, who has been state chief minister for the last 10 years, is looking for a third term.
PTI contributed to this story.