The BJP Friday backed party chief Nitin Gadkari, who is facing accusations of wrongdoing in business dealings, and described speculation of his resignation as “baseless” even as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) distanced itself from the matter.
Gadkari, who has been targeted by anti-corruption activists as well as the media of alleged impropriety in his businesses, met senior party leaders in the capital Friday evening.
The party core committee, which met late in the evening, decided on backing the party chief.
“The party is unanimous in backing him,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said after the meeting ended.
“The speculation about his (Gadkari) resignation is totally baseless,” he said, adding Gadkari would leave for Himachal Pradesh Saturday to campaign for the state assembly election.
The top leaders of the BJP, including Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, were present at the meeting at Gadkari’s residence to discuss the controversy over Gadkari’s firm Purti Group.
Earlier, Gadkari met party leader L.K. Advani after arriving in the national capital. According to sources, the Maharashtra leader told Advani that he would abide by the decision of the party.
The RSS, the BJP’s mentor, in a statement on Friday said it had nothing to do with the matter.
“RSS has nothing to do with any of the allegations. It is saddened by the efforts aimed at dragging Sangh’s name in this,” said the statement released by RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiya Joshi.
He also said the Sangh also believes that any individual or organisation indulging in any illegal activity “must be subjected to impartial probe” and that “all those found guilty be punished”.
The Sangh said the fight against corruption should be waged at a non-political and non-partisan level.
The Congress and Left parties attacked the BJP over allegations against Gadkari.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said “there must be some truth” in the allegations against Gadkari.
“You cannot hide the facts. There must be some substance in the charges against him (Gadkari),” Shinde told reporters on the sidelines of a function here.
“If media is reporting that he (Gadkari) has done something wrong, then there must be some truth in it,” he added.
Shinde’s Congress party too joined the verbal attack on the BJP president, saying it was sad that the BJP’s senior leaders like Advani were giving Gadkari a clean chit even while he was facing serious charges of corruption.
“The BJP chief is facing serious corruption charges… there are benami (fictitious) companies and drivers and other support staff have been made directors in his group,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told reporters.
Advani had earlier this week in a statement congratulated Gadkari for offering his business dealings to be probed.
Alvi defended Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, who faces charges of corruption in land deals, saying while Vadra had nothing to do with the Congress, Gadkari headed the BJP.
In Shimla, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader and former MP Subhashini Ali said the BJP chief should resign on moral grounds.
However, Ali said her party would not demand resignation of Gadkari.
“It is a matter of investigation and the party would not jump into any conclusion that he is corrupt, but it wants that the BJP leader listen to his inner voice and act accordingly,” she said.
India Against Corruption (IAC) member Arvind Kejriwal last week levelled allegations related to land deals in Maharashtra against the BJP chief.
The latest allegations against Gadkari are about improper business dealings as chairman of the Purti Group.
The income tax department and the company affairs ministry have begun separate inquiries into Gadkari’s firm and its financial dealings with 26 investor companies.