Mahesh Jethmalani, Nitin Gadkari
New Delhi, Jan. 21: Mahesh Jethmalani, lawyer and Ram Jethmalani’s son, declared today that he would contest for BJP president against Nitin Gadkari, who is the party’s prospective official candidate.
It is learnt that L.K. Advani covertly supported Mahesh but sources confessed the candidacy was a “non-starter”.
Sources said the “larger” message Advani wanted to convey was that the RSS could not be expected to have its say in the BJP’s affairs and micro-manage things.
Ever since he was done out of the party’s leadership for his pro-Jinnah remarks chiefly on the Sangh’s instigation, Advani has been determined to get back at it.
Thawarchand Gehlot, the BJP’s general secretary who is overseeing the presidential election, confirmed that Mahesh had spoken to him through an emissary who said he sought a copy of the nomination paper and a list of the voters.
Gehlot told the media that he asked for a letter of authorisation from Mahesh.
Mahesh, who is based in Mumbai, told the media there: “I just said there should be a contest if Mr Gadkari is contesting. If I have to engage in a token fight, I may decide.”
As a primary member of the BJP, he is qualified to contest but he will require 100 proposers, 20 from at least five states. That, sources said, was a tall order unless Mahesh tapped the party’s legal cells for endorsers.
A week ago, Ram Jethmalani — who took on Gadkari after his business deals came under a cloud — met the BJP chief at Advani’s residence.
Unofficially it was let on that the meeting was meant to broker peace between Gadkari and Ram because the latter made it clear that the BJP chief should not continue in his position for a minute longer than required.
Ram was suspended from the BJP in November for “anti-party activities”. The suspension has not yet been revoked.
His son’s declaration, sources said, indicated that the Jethmalanis were in no mood to relent to Gadkari and the RSS.
On Sunday night, the anti-Gadkari camp let on that Advani intended to propose the name of Ravi Shankar Prasad for the presidency. Prasad is the party’s chief spokesperson and a Rajya Sabha MP.
Earlier Advani had asked Sushma Swaraj to step into Gadkari’s place but she refused. Sources said, keeping in mind the fact that she had a long innings to play and could possibly emerge as a “consensus” prime ministerial candidate if the BJP was placed to lead a coalition in 2014, Sushma decided not to antagonise the Sangh, even on the peril of antagonising her mentor Advani.
But Advani refused to let go of his agenda to seek an alternative to Gadkari. However, sources said his exertions angered the RSS and could mark the beginning of his twilight phase in the BJP.