A day after it suspended Rajya Sabha member Ram Jethmalani for indiscipline, the BJP has now issued a showcause notice to the senior leader. The decision comes after a meeting of the BJP's parliamentary board today to discuss the growing rebellion in the party. The action against Mr Jethmalani follows his vocal dissent, first on Nitin Gadkari continuing as party president and now on the issue of the appointment of the new CBI chief.
"The parliamentary board discussed the anti-party actions of Mr. Ram Jethmalani. The parliamentary party found appropriate the decision of party president Nitin Gadkari to suspend Jethmalani for his indiscipline and anti-party activities...We have also sent him a show cause notice to tell why he should not be expelled from the party for six years," said senior leader Ananth Kumar.
He, however, said that the issue of the statements made by former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and Bihar actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha against Mr Gadkari did not come up for discussion in the meeting. Sources had earlier said that the party top brass is also contemplating suspending Shatrughan Sinha and might issue a warning to Yashwant Sinha and give him an opportunity to withdraw recent remarks suggesting that Mr Gadkari should go.
Shatrughan Sinha, like Yashwant Sinha, has been part of the "Gadkari must go" brigade of rebels that the outspoken Mr Jethmalani has frontlined in the last few weeks. He also followed Mr Jethmalani's lead in slamming the BJP's opposition to the appointment of the new CBI director, articulated by two of the party's senior-most leaders, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
The two BJP leaders had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing their reservations over the appointment of Ranjit Sinha as the new Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). They said that a select panel of the Rajya Sabha had recommended that the CBI director be chosen by a collegium that includes the PM as well as leaders of opposition among others and yet just before that committee, comprising members from across parties, tabled its recommendations, Mr Sinha was appointed.
The BJP's crisis management meeting came on a day when when Mr Jethmalani wrote a fresh letter to Mr Gadkari, explaining why he felt Mr Jaitley and Ms Swaraj were against Ranjit Sinha's appointment as the CBI Director; on Saturday, he had written to the BJP President wherein he had criticised the party's stand on the CBI chief, saying that the Congress-led government has in fact averted a "national calamity" by making the appointment.
Reacting to the showcause notice issued to him, the 86-year-old outspoken lawyer "today said, "I have only heard about it (the show cause notice) from the media this evening. I have not read the great document which is coming to me. When I receive this document and I read it, I will tell you what I can do - I am too busy a lawyer to reply to any document within 10 years.
The embarrassingly public rebellion in the senior ranks of the BJP comes uncomfortably close to elections in Gujarat and has underscored the deeply-entrenched factionalism within. Mr Jethmalani is seen as close to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who played a big role in pushing for a Rajya Sabha seat for him. Mr Jethmalani in his public musings has said Mr Modi should be named the party's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections.
The BJP's parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), too is unhappy with the turn of events in the last fortnight, say sources. The tension came into the open with the issue of Nitin Gadkari's continuation as the party president for an unprecedented second term in the midst of charges of graft that he is facing. The party gave Mr Gadkari a clean chit recently over the allegations of financial impropriety, amply aided by the RSS, which had favoured him for a second term. But this did not impress the anti-Gadkari group, which believes that the continuation of Mr Gadkari as the party chief would tarnish the image of the BJP and severely dent its campaign the Congress-led UPA government over corruption.(With PTI inputs)