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Ram & rebels given ‘latitude’

New Delhi, Nov. 26: BJP boss Nitin Gadkari has been checked in his tracks by his colleagues.

Gadkari, who sought Ram Jethmalani’s expulsion and a warning to Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha, had to rest content with serving a showcause notice to the veteran lawyer, asking why he should not be expelled from the BJP for six years.

Sources said Gadkari had wanted “precipitate and decisive” steps to be taken against Jethmalani, a Rajya Sabha MP, and the Sinhas, both Lok Sabha MPs, for questioning his leadership and the BJP’s official stand against the appointment of new CBI director Ranjit Sinha.

Jethmalani was, accordingly, suspended yesterday. The BJP parliamentary board was to meet today to ratify the suspension and recommend his expulsion.

It met, only to direct the lawyer to formally bear out why he should not be expelled. There was no word on the Sinhas, both of whom had backed Jethmalani’s assertions against Gadkari and on Ranjit Sinha’s appointment.

Sources said the leaders chose to give them “latitude” because of their “political equity”. While Shatrughan is a crowd-puller, Yashwant is an “effective” speaker on economics and foreign policy matters.

Asked about Jaswant Singh’s swift expulsion in 2010 for his acknowledged work on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a source said: “Jethmalani is a lawyer, Jaswant is not.”

Sources said the action against Singh, who has since been readmitted, was taken under pressure from Narendra Modi, who had warned that Singh’s “laudatory” allusions to the founder of Pakistan had “angered” Gujaratis.

The BJP’s “action” appeared to have partially reined in Jethmalani, who speaks his mind out to the media with or without provocation. Today, he wrote to the parliamentary board members but refused to reveal the contents to reporters.

It is learnt he insinuated that Arun Jaitley’s opposition to the CBI chief’s appointment was “motivated” because a former junior of Jaitley (a top lawyer who stopped accepting briefs once he became Rajya Sabha Opposition leader) was fighting a case for Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar.

Kumar has contested the appointment in the central administrative tribunal.

It is believed that later in the three-page letter, Jethmalani admitted that his diatribe against Jaitley and Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj for challenging the appointment was not entirely justified because their reservations were against institutional norms and not against an individual as such.

The BJP has objected to the decision on the ground that a House committee had recommended that a collegium should make such appointments.

In Patna, chief minister Nitish Kumar said he wouldn’t object to the appointment, sowing the seeds of a fresh strain in his party’s testy relationship with ally BJP.

Efforts to reach Jethmalani failed.