New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday issued a notice to Ram Jethmalani threatening to expel him from the party, drawing speculation on who will be hauled up next.
Jethmalani, a top lawyer and Rajya Sabha member, former Union minister Yashwant Sinha and actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha had demanded that BJP president Nitin Gadkari resign over charges of impropriety. The party has so far not indicated its plans for the other two.
The principal opposition party suspended Jethmalani on Sunday after he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh criticising his leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley for objecting to the appointment of a new director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the government. On Monday, he was given 10 days to explain why he should not be expelled for six years.
“The BJP parliamentary board today met on the decision taken by party president Nitin Gadkari to suspend Jethmalani from the party for indiscipline and anti-party activities. The meeting was attended by Swaraj, Jaitley and (L.K.) Advani. They agreed that the decision taken by the party president was right,” BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar told reporters after the meeting.
Asked if the party was considering similar action against Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha, Kumar said their matter did not come up before the parliamentary board, the BJP’s highest decision-making body that has the authority to expel a party legislator. Though the party president has the right to suspend a member, his decision has to be ratified by the board.
“It is a signal for every one to fall in line and not air views in public,” said a BJP leader, requesting anonymity.
The BJP, which is fighting the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on issues of corruption, foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and inflation, has been left embarrassed by statements from its own leaders against Gadkari.
Mumbai-based political analyst Jai Mrug pointed out that Jethmalani, in the past, had been suspended or expelled for similar actions.
“It is not the first time that Ram Jethmalani has taken the BJP leadership head-on. In 2004, he contested the election against (former prime minister) Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This blow-hot, blow-cold relationship gave the BJP some sense of ease in taking action against him. In 1986, he was again suspended for taking up the case of assassin of former (Congress) prime minister Indira Gandhi,” he said.
“Whereas, on the other (hand), Shatrughan Sinha is mere(ly) a film star and does not have much mass support. He does not have much say in the party as well, so he could be next,” Mrug said. “But it is extremely difficult to take action against leaders like Yashwant Sinha, who know the party and party leaders inside out. He holds many secret(s).”
Mrug also said the suspension of Jethmalani was an indication that the BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was “strongly standing behind Gadkari”.
RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya, in a recent blog post, alleged that Jethmalani was speaking against Gadkari at Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s behest.
Jethmalani is a staunch supporter of Modi, a likely contender to be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 election.
In Mumbai on Sunday, Jethmalani said many BJP members shared his views but “few had the capacity” to express these openly.
He, however, clarified that his views on the appointment of the CBI chief were his own and not of the BJP, where “I am a small person”.
“If there is any action taken against me, I will welcome it but I don’t think anyone has the guts to take any action against me,” he told reporters at an event to launch a book.
PTI contributed to this story.