Divisions persisted within BJP over the continuance of Nitin Gadkari as its president even as its Core Group yet again stood behind him insisting that there was "no legal or moral wrongdoing" by him in the running of his company.
The party's second public backing for Gadkari in a fortnight came on a day of hectic activities in the wake of public demand by eminent lawyer and party MP Ram Jethmalani for Gadkari's immediate resignation with apparent backing of some senior leaders including Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha.
The meeting of party's Core Group and General Secretaries discussed the issue but senior leader L K Advani kept away apparently unhappy over Gadkari's continuance in the post.
Gadkari also stayed away from the meeting to which RSS ideologue and chartered accountant S Gurumurthy was specially invited to make a detailed presentation on the investments made in Gadkari's company Purti Sugar and Power Ltd.
"Gurumurthy, who has examined these documents, made a detailed presentation to party leaders. The meeting accepted the presentation and is convinced that there was no legal or moral wrongdoing by Gadkari," said a Joint Statement issued by senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj after the two-hour meeting at the party headquarters.
The statement endorsed Gadkari's readiness to face any probe, maintaining that he has "no direct or indirect interest" in the 18 companies which have invested in Purti Group.
"The party has full faith in the leadership of Gadkari and appeals to all party leaders not to air their views in public," said the statement read out by chief spokesman Ravi Shanker Prasad.
The unfolding events could force the party leadership to have a rethink on a second term to him after the expiry of his current term in December. The party's National Council had recently amended its Constitution to enable Gadkari to get a second term.
A day after his son Mahesh quit the BJP National Executive protesting against Gadkari's continuance, Ram Jethmalani raised the pitch for the resignation of the party chief, claiming that some other senior leaders like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha were with him on the issue.
He also wrote a strong letter to Advani claiming to have the endorsement of the three leaders in which he reportedly said that they met two days ago to consider whether they should quit the party over the issue.
While Yashwant Sinha refrained from commenting, Shatrughan Sinha reportedly said he was part of that group.
With Jethmalani setting the agenda for the day, the party leaders went into a huddle over a number of sessions. Gadkari himself drove to residences of Jaitley and Swaraj.
Swaraj later met party leaders including Advani who is reportedly unhappy with Gadkari's insistence on continuing in the post. Jaitley, Ananth Kumar and Balbir Punj were also present at the meeting when they reportedly tried to persuade Advani to attend the Core Group meeting and not to push for Gadkari's immediate exit.
Seeking to downplay Advani's absence from the Core Group meeting, Prasad said he had already been briefed elaborately by Gurumurthy on the fundings.
Gurumurthy appeared to have taken the role of a mediator as he met Advani and later Jethmalani in a bid to persuade the latter to relent on the issue.
Jethmalani said he would like to check the documents on the basis of which Gadkari is claiming innocence.
Advani chose not to go to the meeting in the party office on a day of hectic activities triggered by the demand for Gadkari's resignation by party MP Ram Jethmalani in the wake of allegations of dubious funding for his company Purti.
Earlier, Swaraj tweeted to "reiterate" her support to Gadkari and deny media reports that she was not supporting him.
Meanwhile, two senior party leaders Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Vinay Katiyar held a separate meeting and are understood to have shared the view that BJP's image had suffered because of allegations against Gadkari and something needed to be done immediately.