In a sudden and dramatic last-minute twist, Nitin Gadkari, facing allegations of dubious funding of his company, was forced out of the race for BJP President’s post and Rajnath Singh emerged the consensus choice for the office.
In a late-night development on Tuesday, Gadkari issued a statement opting out of the election scheduled on Wednesday, saying he did not want that allegations against him should in any way adversely affect the interests of BJP.
“I have, therefore, decided not to seek a second term as the President of BJP,” said Gadkari, who is expected to propose Rajnath Singh’s name on Wednesday.
The BJP Parliamentary Board will meet on Wednesday at 9.30 AM to endorse Rajnath’s name and he will file his nomination papers around 11.30 AM, party sources said.
Sources close to Rajnath said he was happy that the party has shown immense trust in him and that he has a challenging task in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
62-year-old Rajnath, who had preceded Gadkari as BJP president till 2009, emerged the new choice at a hurriedly-called meeting of top leaders including Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, M Venkaiah Naidu and RSS representative Ram Lal on Tuesday night.
L K Advani, who was dead set against a second term for Gadkari, was away in a place near Mumbai and attended a function with Gadkari but the two did not even exchange a word, reflecting the chill between them.
Rajnath Singh is also considered close to RSS and that appeared to have tilted the balance in his favour.
Gadkari, whose candidature was being strongly pushed by RSS despite reservations within the party, was all set for re-election before senior leader Yashwant Sinha decided on Tuesday evening to throw his hat in Wednesday’s polls.
The move by Sinha, who had earlier demanded Gadkari’s resignation in the wake of allegations of impropriety by his firm Purti Group, forced change on the candidate.
In Mumbai, Gadkari said the allegations against him were aimed at maligning the image of his party.
“I will continue to serve the party as a committed worker. I don’t want allegations against me to affect the party adversely,” he told reporters at the Mumbai airport before leaving for Delhi.
“There are allegations against me and I want to come out clean. I will tackle these charges both politically and legally. The decision to opt out (of BJP President’s race) is entirely my own,” Gadkari maintained.
Gadkari said he was ready to face any probe. “I am ready to face any inquiry. I have informed my party that I won’t take any post till I am proved innocent. I will extend my full cooperation to whosoever becomes the next BJP President,” he said.
Earlier, in his statement, Gadkari said, “It was a political challenge to me when allegations were levelled against me and I decided that there should be a probe into such allegations. Unless my name is cleared, I have decided not to be in this post. So, I decided not to contest for the second term,” he said.
“The probe will go on and I am sure that I will come out clean. I have nothing to do with corruption. I am sure I will come out clean. I myself decided to withdraw, so that there are no allegations against the party,” he said.