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Jan 21, 2013, 10.44 PM IST | Source: PTI

Gadkari frontrunner for BJP chief, party remains divided

Even as there have been big names that could have been considered for the post of the President in the party, Gadkari remains the frontrunner with a strong Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh backing.

Even as there have been big names that could have been considered for the post of the President in the party, Gadkari remains the frontrunner with a strong Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backing. RSS has endorsed Gadkari despite him facing corruption charges and at a stage where the BJP looks to compete with the Congress, the party would not want to lose RSS's support.

This comes even as the BJP can consider names like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and senior leader Sushma Swaraj. However, Narendra Modi, who recently registered a huge victory in Gujarat, is not interested in managing the party's affairs at this stage even though he is looking for a national level role for himself. After becoming the Gujarat Chief Minister for the fourth time, Modi now wants to consolidate his position further and would hence, not want to be involved in leading the party.

Gadkari may become BJP President again

Even as senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj's name was in the fray, she is happier with her present position of Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha. Sources had earlier said that party veteran LK Advani had suggested Sushma Swaraj's name for the post. However, the RSS continues to back the embattled current president, Nitin Gadkari. Sushma Swaraj is also not comfortable with managing the nuts and bolts of a bitterly divided party.

The other senior members like Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley and former party president Rajnath Singh could also have been considered, but there is no consensus among the party on them. Jaitley is not favoured by RSS and there is also no consensus on him. Meanwhile, LK Advani is totally opposed to Rajnath Singh being considered for another term despite RSS looking at him as second choice. His past record as the BJP president has been extremely controversial while the party lost the 2009 polls under his presidentship.

Earlier on Monday, Mahesh Jethmalani, who resigned from the BJP National Executive in 2012 over charges against Gadkari, also threatened to contest against Gadkari. He told CNN-IBN that he will fight, if no one else does.

But sources say the BJP Constitution requires 12 years party membership to contest while Jethmalani has just three years. Mahesh Jethmalani belongs to a coterie of people, that includes his father Ram Jethmalani, within the BJP who are opposed to the renomination of Gadkari as the party president as he faces a string of corruption charges.

Meanwhile, a leader of the RSS, Suresh Soni, is also said to be opposed to Nitin Gadkari's candidature and will be holding talks with party veteran LK Advani in the capital.

On Sunday, the BJP had issued the notification for the presidential election and sources said that Gadkari will file his nomination papers by January 23. Advani is reportedly opposed to his renomination and had proposed Sushma Swaraj's name for the post. Sushma, however, said sources, did not show any keenness for the post.

The RSS has rallied around Gadkari for the post and want him to be renominated. Gadkari also has the backing of leaders like Narendra Modi and Ravi Shankar Prasad, said sources.

He, however, has run into trouble with the Income Tax Department. Last week, he received summons from the I-T Department over tax evasion charges in connection with irregularities in Purti Power and Sugar Limited - where he has a stake. 

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