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Sangh boss buffs Gadkari crown

- Thorns out, BJP chief set for 2nd term
Nitin Gadkari

New Delhi, Jan. 8: Nitin Gadkari looks set to get a second term as BJP president, thanks to RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat.

Bhagwat, who initially faced opposition, especially after Gadkari was caught in a financial controversy involving his business interests, overcame it step by step, sources said.

First, he neutralised team-mates like Suresh Soni who was pitching for another senior BJP leader whose CV is among the few unblemished by financial and other allegations, sources said.

Soni’s protégé, Prabhat Jha, was denied a second term as Madhya Pradesh BJP president despite his efforts. “That was a clear signal that Bhagwat would have his way on Gadkari,” a Sangh source said.

Next, he worked on senior BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj and coaxed their support. Jaitley and Sushma, unlike some other seniors, had read the tea leaves “correctly”, which was why they defended Gadkari when the Purti controversy erupted despite knowing the BJP’s anti-corruption plank was getting weakened.

Bhagwat communicated his plans to Narendra Modi before the Gujarat elections. The chief minister, sources said, urged the RSS chief to “contain” former BJP leader Keshubhai Patel’s damage potential in the elections. Patel has close ties to the Gujarat RSS, with whom Modi had long ago burnt his bridges. Bhagwat reportedly kept his promise and limited the Gujarat Sangh’s opposition to him.

That left Bhagwat with “recalcitrant” voices like those of Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha, who openly spoke out against Gadkari. When Yashwant Sinha recently met a Congress minister on a flight and was asked about the BJP’s next president, he is said to have replied ruefully that it would be Gadkari.

There were doubts over Advani’s position. It is learnt that he was not in favour of Gadkari’s continuance. But his reported dissent, unlike that of the Sinhas, was promptly taken by the RSS as a “design” to manipulate the post for himself. There were reports that Advani was not averse to asking a senior like Shanta Kumar or B.C. Khanduri to replace Gadkari, but such suggestions did not figure on the Sangh’s radar.

An indication that Advani had “fallen in line” came at an event in Delhi on Monday when he shared the dais with Gadkari and Uma Bharti. The occasion was the “successful” completion of the first phase of Uma’s “Save Ganga” campaign. In his speech, Gadkari mentioned Advani fleetingly.

On Wednesday, Gadkari is set to inaugurate a shelter for the homeless set up in a Delhi suburb by BJP general secretary Vijay Goel.

A couple of weeks ago, he addressed a Pakistani Hindu migrant camp in Jodhpur.

On January 14, Bhagwat’s teammates, Suresh Joshi and Dattatreya Hosabale, are scheduled to be in Delhi to speak to BJP leaders. Once the exercise is over, a formal announcement of Gadkari’s re-anointment is on the cards, unless the RSS’s blueprint is stymied by surprise developments.