The senior most leaders of the BJP are meeting tonight to assess the impact of the corruption charges that have engulfed party president Nitin Gadkari over the last week. Sources say that while he will not be asked to resign, chances of a second term are dissipating.
Mr Gadkari is headed to Himachal Pradesh, where he is scheduled to campaign for his party ahead of next month's elections in the state.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang or RSS, which is the parent body of the BJP, distanced itself from the controversy today with an emailed statement that reads ominously for Mr Gadkari. "It has been an article of faith with the RSS that any individual or organization in any illegal activity must be subjected to impartial probe," the RSS said in an emailed statement today. "We are saddened with efforts to drag the RSS name into these allegations," it said, stressing that the charges have not been investigated by an authorized agency. (Read: RSS statement seeks distance from Nitin Gadkari)
By striding away from the controversy, the RSS has reinvigorated its frisson with the BJP. In 2009, the RSS conferred presidency upon Mr Gadkari against the wishes of senior BJP leaders like LK Advani. Just last month, the BJP's rules were amended, again under considerable pressure from the RSS, to allow Mr Gadkari a second consecutive term as president, a move that may soon be aborted.
The shadowy credentials of his vast business empire, and the companies that have invested in it, were first reported on NDTV last weekend. Mr Gadkari had appeared in its studio to counter charges of ghost investors in Purti Power and Sugar Limited, co-founded by him in 2000. He quit as its chairman last year and now holds about 200 shares in the company.
Since then, a series of reports have exhumed other insalubrious details. Some of the companies that have bought equity in Purti share bogus addresses; their directors have included his former driver, an astrologer and a baker. Yesterday, another NDTV expose highlighted that a firm that bought stake in Purti was, a year later, loaned money by Mr Gadkari and his firm, a tactic normally used for money-laundering and round-tripping, which involves selling an asset with the understanding that it will be bought back, often used for tax evasion.
The allegations against Mr Gadkari have peaked just as his party was getting ready to pitch graft within the government as the anchor of its campaign, first in states like Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, and eventually for the general elections in 2014. The force of the attack is severely undercut by the charges surrounding their top man.