Nitin Gadkari crisis: What’s at stake for Narendra Modi

Ahmedabad: In a very smoggy Delhi, the BJP spent today dealing with clouds of revolt against party president Nitin Gadkari who is beleaguered by corruption charges. A section of the party wants Mr Gadkari to be dismissed before his term expires in December -a prospect that will likely be shot down tonight by senior leaders who have decided to stand by him.

But a second term for Mr Gadkari, virtually a given till a financial scandal tarred him, has faded from the horizon, triggering an aggressive behind-the-scenes succession war.

At the centre of the party’s restructuring is Narendra Modi, the Gujarat chief minister, who is virtually guaranteed a decisive victory when the state votes in December. His potential reward is what’s helping BJP leaders take sides now in the Gadkari crisis.

Mr Modi is continuing with his campaign in Gujarat, but sources close to him say he’s tracking his party’s movements in Delhi closely.

He is among the front-runners for party president, but reportedly disagrees with those who want Mr Gadkari’s term to be aborted immediately.  Sources say he would like to stake claim to the party’s top job after he has delivered Gujarat to the BJP, giving him much more leverage and clout.

His ambition to be selected as his party’s candidate for prime minister is also well known.  As is his wariness of leaders like Yashwant Sinha or Jaswant Singh who are among those who allegedly want Mr Gadkari to be fired.  The Gujarat chief minister would prefer not to see either of those leaders as front-runners for Mr Gadkari’s job. He instead reportedly favours Arun Jaitley, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, for BJP president. Mr Jaitley and Mr Modi are known to enjoy a good rapport.

At the same time, there is also a growing discomfort in the Gujarat BJP over Mr Gadkari’s statement comparing Swami Vivekananda with wanted terrorist Dawood Ibrahim. Mr Modi had kicked off his election campaign with a month-long Vivekananda Yatra across Gujarat in September. He also regularly tweets quotes from the spiritualist’s works and speeches. Mr Gadkari has since expressed regrets for his comments.

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