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New Delhi: Fresh allegations of alleged wrongdoing hurled at Nitin Gadkari yesterday led party colleague Ram Jethmalani to demand that he step down as the BJP president.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sources, meanwhile, said that the growing charges against their president can no more be taken lightly even if they were when India Against Corruption (IAC) unleashed the first salvo.
A BJP insider said the party and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) were likely to adopt a “wait and watch” approach till a probe takes place.
Another leader said it was premature to say if Gadkari would get a second term as party president as announced earlier.
“A lot of things can happen,” the source said. But he quickly added that the BJP would not be swayed by media reports but go only by facts.
Media reports yesterday said an infrastructure company, Ideal Road Builders (IRB), had made major investments in and given a large loan to a company controlled by Gadkari. I
RB had won contracts between 1995 and 1999 when Gadkari was the PWD minister in Maharashtra.
The reports said the addresses of some of the companies that had invested in Gadkari’s company appeared to be dubious.
Gadkari, who seemingly has the backing of the RSS, did not react to the latest allegations - the way he promptly responded to IAC when it accused him of questionable land deals.
Yesterday, however, BJP MP Jethmalani suggested that Gadkari should not aspire for a second term as party president.
Jethmalani told television channels that there “was suspicion about his integrity” and his continuation as BJP chief will weaken the party’s fight in upcoming elections.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sithrarman yesterday morning backed Gadkari, saying he had himself said that the charges against him were baseless and he was ready to face any investigation.
But by evening, no one appeared to be defending him publicly.
The Congress plunged into the political quicksand, with party general secretary Digvijay Singh urging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order a probe into allegations of dubious funding in Gadkari’s companies.
Congress spokesperson Raashid Alvi termed the latest revelations a “serious matter” and asked Gadkari to respond.
Gadkari became the BJP president in December 2009 for three years. The party had amended its constitution last month to give a second consecutive term to an incumbent.
The allegations against Gadkari have come ahead of assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.