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Bhagwat gauges Gadkari impact

New Delhi, Nov. 10: Mohanrao Bhagwat today spent the day meeting “non-political” representatives in the capital to catch up on how the controversies surrounding Nitin Gadkari impacted civil society.

The RSS sarsanghachalak caught up with senior journalists seen to be “close” to the Sangh, chartered accountants, small businessmen, doctors and lawyers to find out if the RSS’s image had suffered because of the perception that it had stood “solidly” behind the BJP chief.

Gadkari’s Nagpur-based Purti companies recently hit the headlines after media exposes sought to establish that their funding was dodgy and the constitution of ownership trusts were opaque and in cases, “fake”.

The BJP’s initial political sense was that Gadkari must quit. He tried to cut the losses by offering himself for any sort of governmental investigation but most leaders felt his presence would “damage” the party’s campaign against the UPA’s corruption.

However, the RSS swung on behalf of Gadkari and coaxed a statement of unequivocal support from the BJP, despite the reservations openly expressed by L.K. Advani.

Sources said while the Sangh’s sympathisers in the parivar were coming around to Bhagwat’s notion that the BJP must not keel over because of “media pressure” and oust Gadkari, those outside the boundary argued that why then was the BJP known as a “party with a difference?”

“The Congress always brazens out corruption charges and keeps its core support because people think this is the way the party’s made, it’s in its DNA. Unfortunately, for us, we began preaching from a lofty moral pedestal and couldn’t live up to the self-prescribed norms. The RSS figured out the contradictions and, in its wisdom, decided Gadkari must not go,” a source said.

The “sense” some of those who interacted with Bhagwat got was that while Gadkari would last out his present term, a second innings might be “difficult”.

Bhagwat also met BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar to get an idea of how organisational elections were proceeding. Kumar, who is overseeing the exercise, was told that 50 per cent states must have new office-bearers in place by end-November.

This is the minimum stipulation required to go ahead with the “election” of the BJP president in end-December.

The amendment of the BJP constitution to give incumbent presidents (national, state, district, block) a second three-year term has set off revolts nearly everywhere.

Sources said sitting chiefs asked why, like Gadkari, their tenures should not be extended. Sources said Bhagwat was informed about the incipient dissent, caused by a change the RSS wanted in order to let Gadkari continue in office.