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‘Furious’ Gadkari to skip Himachal

New Delhi, Oct. 29: BJP president Nitin Gadkari has called off the last leg of his campaign for the Himachal polls, a source close to him said.

Gadkari, supposed to address several meetings over the next two days ahead of the November 4 polls, was reportedly “furious” at the “unrelenting” campaign unleashed against him by a couple of TV news channels and a leading English daily.

The source said he planned to stay put in his home in Nagpur for the next two days and consult his lawyer V.R. Manohar on filing a “huge” defamation suit against the channels and the newspaper. Manohar is the father of former cricket board chairman Shashank Manohar.

“He is in a foul mood because he feels he has been targeted by these media houses. There seems to be a conscious design to push the UPA’s mega scams involving lakhs of crores into the background and keep the spotlight on him, he thinks. He’s hurt because he has not caused any loss to the state exchequer, nor has he swindled public money,” the source said.

It is learnt that the RSS —especially its chief Mohanrao Bhagwat — still thinks Gadkari should be allowed to complete his tenure and resort to a legal defence in the hope that he would be exonerated in court. Sources said he had not consulted anyone in the BJP before deciding to file the libel suit.

The sources said the Himachal BJP was “not keen” on having Gadkari over because his presence had pushed them on the “back foot” over corruption. Last week, when Gadkari went ahead with his campaign, state leaders ensured he was not allowed to interact with the media and that his meetings took place in far-flung and thinly populated places.

In contrast, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was today taken to all major towns where he attacked Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar. His remarks on Sunanda were condemned on social media sites.

Gadkari flew earlier in the day to hometown Nagpur where he described as “small challenges” the allegations against him and his Purti Group.

The BJP chief was greeted on arrival by over a thousand supporters and driven in an open jeep from the airport to his residence in the bustling Mahal area, the parade seen as a bid by his supporters to bury the sombre mood of last week.

Gadkari said he had helped raise his group as a “social enterprise” for farmers. Purti runs three sugar factories in Vidarbha and has interests in ethanol-based power generation units.

Purti is accused of laundering money and floating shell companies as investors among other things. Gadkari has denied the charges but the Centre has begun a “discreet” inquiry through the income-tax and the corporate affairs departments.

Gadkari has declared he is open to any probe, a stand he reiterated today. “I will co-operate with the authorities,” Gadkari told a gathering near his home, standing on the same podium from where he had addressed his first rally after becoming party chief three years ago. “There’s nothing to hide. I don’t fear anybody.”

But he suggested he was prepared for a fight. He said he had sued Congress leaders Manish Tiwari and Digvijay Singh. “I will file defamation suits and also fight my case in the people’s court,” the BJP chief said.

“You’ve seen me since my childhood. I’ve never made money through corrupt means, never misused my political position, and I will never do so in my life,” Gadkari told the gathering.

Last week, top BJP leaders backed Gadkari and decided he should continue till his term ends in December. The party amended, with the RSS’s backing, its constitution in September to allow a party chief a second term. But the Sangh last week distanced itself from Gadkari’s business dealings.

Today, he described himself as a street-fighter who loves to be with grassroots workers. “I never lobbied for any post in Delhi, neither for the first term, nor for the second.”