New Delhi/Bangalore: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari may have ducked the charges levelled against him by India Against Corruption leader Arvind Kejriwal and his colleague Anjali Damania, but he may well be felled by an investigation by Times Now channel that claimed to have unearthed evidence about strange and irregular directorships in his companies and investments in them by non-existent companies.
The charges might hamper Gadkari’s prospect of being re-elected as party president in December, according to party leaders.
Meanwhile, BJP’s troubles multiplied on Tuesday with former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa saying he would resign his primary membership of the party and launch a new party by 10 December.
Party spokespersons defended Gadkari and vehemently denied the charges against him but party leader and advocate Ram Jethmalani asked Gadkari to refrain from seeking a second term.
“In the interest of the party, in his own interest, he should get out of the fray now and he must give the position to somebody who inspires greater confidence,” he told television news channel CNN-IBN.
Last month, during the party executive and council meet at Surajkund in Haryana, Jethmalani had demanded that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi be declared as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections.
The party had amended its constitution to make way for Gadkari’s re-election as party president in the Surajkund meeting.
Times Now reported on Tuesday that non-existent companies have invested in some of Gadkari’s companies and that his driver was a director on some of these companies.
Some BJP leaders said that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the party’s spiritual progenitor was unhappy with the repeated charges against Gadkari and has sought an explanation from him.
“RSS has asked him to explain these allegations. It may cost him his job,” a BJP leader said, asking not to be identified. Gadkari has, so far, drawn strong support from the Nagpur-based RSS. The party has functionaries who have been “loaned” from the RSS.
A spokesperson for the RSS couldn’t be reached for comment.
“The BJP party president has himself said allegations levelled against him are baseless. He has appeared in the 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,” party spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman told reporters.
Gadkari was earlier targeted by Kejriwal and Damania for impropriety over usage of land in Maharashtra.
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to investigate the fresh allegations against Gadkari. Digvijay Singh had earlier alleged that Gadkari’s business partner had benefited in the allocation of coal blocks because of the latter’s political connection.
Gadkari has already served a defamation case notice to Digvijay Singh.
Corporate affairs minister M. Veerappa Moily said that the government would look into the charges.
“We have not ordered anything. It is all coming in the newspapers. Since it has come in public domain, we told our ministry to make some discreet inquiry to find out what exactly is the matter—are there any violations of the Companies Act?”
Meanwhile, in Karnataka, Yeddyurappa said he would not seek to mend his relationship with BJP.
“I will tender my resignation from state assembly and primary membership of BJP any time before December 10,” he told reporters after performing ayudha puja at his office.
He said that he would begin the process of forming a new party immediately, and that it would fight on a “secular ideology”.
The announcement comes a month after the BJP’s central leadership overlooked Yeddyurappa for the post of the state BJP president.
Yeddyurappa said details of his as-yet unnamed party would emerge when it was launched at Haveri in North Karnataka. Yeddyurappa and the BJP have made significant inroads into north Karnataka over the last decade with the support of the Lingayats, who account for 18% for the state’s population.
Yeddyurappa said that he would not pull down the BJP government despite resigning from the Karnataka assembly.
A BJP legislator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Yeddyurappa has invited leaders from districts across the state for a meeting.
Yeddyurappa’s move to form a new party comes at a time when the Central Bureau of India has filed a charge-sheet against him in a case involving illegal mining in the state.
Yedyurappa and his family have been charged with accepting bribes from iron ore miners in return for favours. “Yeddyurappa, perhaps rightly so, feels that the party has abandoned him in the case”, the legislator added.
PTI contributed to the story.