The Telegraph
Tuesday , October 16 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP muted for fear of ‘next wicket’ Gadkari

New Delhi, Oct. 15: A BJP official today described the charges against Salman Khurshid as “chicken feed” while pondering over what Arvind Kejriwal might have up his sleeve against party chief Nitin Gadkari.

If the BJP has remained muted while Kejriwal keeps levelling allegations at the Union law minister, it is because the word from the India Against Corruption camp is that Gadkari’s is the “next wicket” it aims to claim.

By refraining from going ballistic against Khurshid and Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra — another Kejriwal target — the BJP is hoping that when Gadkari comes under fire, the Congress too will avoid going after its president with a vengeance.

A BJP source explained why the party had refrained from issuing a suo motu reaction to the Khurshid controversy and merely said it merited a “thorough” probe when asked.

“Had we gone guns blazing against the minister, we would have legitimised Kejriwal’s campaign as well as the (TV news channel) sting. We are wary of stings because one of the first undercover operations had claimed our (then) party president (Bangaru Laxman) and a valuable ally (George Fernandes),” the source said.

“We are equally circumspect and miffed with Kejriwal because he has equated us with the Congress whenever he rakes up a scam against the UPA. That way the focus moves away from the Congress to the (entire) political class and that doesn’t help our discourse.”

Also, the source said, Kejriwal was giving an impression of being “unfocused” by repeatedly shifting his target, from Robert Vadra to Khurshid and now perhaps Gadkari.

In Khurshid’s case, the source said, it was possible that the allegedly forged signatures were the handiwork of a trust employee that had escaped the attention of Khurshid and his wife Louise.

“When we ourselves distribute relief in our constituencies or other places, complaints of wrongful distribution to non-existent beneficiaries are often heard. It is not as though politicians are to be blamed directly, because oversights occur in a large project,” the source said.

Kejriwal today declared he would “spill the beans” on Gadkari on Wednesday. His outfit has already accused the BJP president of lobbying with the Maharashtra government to speed up work on a tainted irrigation project because one of the contractors was his “friend” and Rajya Sabha MP, Ajay Sancheti.

The Vidarbha irrigation scam has already led to the exit of NCP deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, the nephew of Sharad Pawar, from the state’s coalition government.

For all its restraint on Khurshid, however, the BJP has another Congress politician, at least so far untouched by Kejriwal, on its radar.

Former Union minister Virbhadra Singh, who resigned after a high court framed corruption charges against him, today came under fire from the BJP’s Rajya Sabha Opposition leader, Arun Jaitley, in connection with a different case.

The Congress has fore-grounded Singh for the Himachal Pradesh polls, where it will be pitted against the BJP in a straight fight in November. The BJP hopes to retain power on the strength of chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s “development work” and the graft charges against Virbhadra.

The Congress is counting on Virbhadra’s grassroots following and his charisma to defeat Dhumal.

Virbhadra faces an allegation that a private firm paid him Rs 2.28 crore when he was the steel minister in 2009-10. Jaitley asked that the case be referred to a special investigation team made up by “officers of unquestionable integrity”.