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Gadkari ambush stuns BJP on House eve

New Delhi, Nov. 20: Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha today left his party squirming two days ahead of Parliament’s winter session by suddenly re-igniting the Nitin Gadkari controversy and demanding his resignation as party president.

Sinha dropped his bombshell at a time BJP leaders were busy discussing with NDA partners their strategy to corner the government in the House. After the meeting, the BJP publicly rapped Sinha and appealed for restraint but by then the damage had been done.

“Whether our party president is guilty (of charges of financial irregularities) or not is not the issue today. The issue is that all of us in public life should be beyond reproach,” Sinha, MP from Jharkhand, told PTI.

The comments are particularly embarrassing for the BJP because it wants to attack the Centre on corruption in Parliament and, to build the mood, has planned a countrywide “hulla bol” campaign tomorrow in which Gadkari was scheduled to participate.

The Gadkari controversy had appeared to be ebbing after a clean chit to him by Sangh ideologue and chartered accountant S. Gurumurthy, who had studied the balance sheet and accounts of the Purti Group of companies backed by the BJP chief.

Sinha, however, took a dig at the Gurumurthy episode saying the party had “let down the people of India... by taking the easy way out through a questionable method of self-certification”.

The rap came soon. Principal BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “Being a senior leader, all party forums are available for Mr Sinha to voice his views. Instead he chose to go public. The party does not approve it and urges the leader to reconsider his stand.”

Sinha had by then dismissed the “party forums” idea, saying he had been forced to go public because the BJP had failed to address his concerns.

“I am issuing the statement with a great deal of sadness and regret and after exhausting the forums in the party,” he told PTI.

“We have deeply disappointed those who were looking towards us to fight the mind-boggling corruption of the Congress party.”

Earlier, demands for Gadkari’s head had come from party Rajya Sabha MP and lawyer Ram Jethmalani and his son Mahesh, who quit the BJP national executive in protest against Gadkari’s continuation.

Sinha’s comments are significant as he is a senior leader and a member of the BJP’s think-tank that formulates parliamentary strategies. Party sources indicated a huge churning was going on in the BJP over Gadkari. “More such bombs will explode in the near future,” a senior leader said.

The BJP today chose not to be too ambitious in its parliamentary strategy and decided to align with the wider Opposition by endorsing the idea of pressing for a debate and vote on FDI in retail. It treaded cautiously on the idea of a no-trust motion, floated by Mamata Banerjee.

“The NDA has decided to move a notice to demand a debate and vote on FDI in Parliament as the government had violated its solemn promise to Parliament by implementing the decision without proper consultations with all stakeholders,” spokesperson Prasad said, urging all political parties to support the move.

On the proposed no-confidence motion, he said the NDA would consult all the political parties on the possibility. He declined to answer questions relating to Mamata’s appeal for support.