The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at a core group meeting on Tuesday reinforced its support to its president Nitin Gadkari, even though senior leader L K Advani was conspicuous by his absence, bolstering speculation that he did not endorse graft-accused chief.
Following the meeting, BJP leaders reiterated their support for Gadkari, who himself was also absent, and urged its members not to go public views that can hurt the image of the party.
Earlier, senior leader Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday ´reiterated´ her support to party president.
"The media reports that I am not supporting Shri Nitin Gadkari are absolutely false. I have always supported him and I reiterate my support," Swaraj tweeted.
According to reports, Gadkari met Swaraj at her residence earlier in the day.
Senior BJP leader Ram Jethmalani revolted openly against the party leadership saying Gadkari must step down as the president of the outfit till a probe into the corruption charges against him cleared him.
At a press conference here, he also named Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the most suitable person to be named as the BJP prime ministerial candidate while claiming that other senior leaders like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha also shared his views on Gadkari´s removal.
"During the probe [to which Gadkari says he has not objection], please step out of the office," said Jethmalani referring to Gadkari, a day after his son Mahesh Jethmalani resigned as a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP to protest the continuance of Gadkari as the party president.
Holding that Gadkari must step down, Jethmalani said delays in removal of the former is causing a huge damage to the party and on has to stem that.
He said he is in touch with like-minded BJP leaders like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, and Shatrughan Sinha.
Jethmalani said he does not believe that RSS would also support Gadkari finally after they think over it.
Asked whey he did not raise the matter internally, Jethmalani said he tried to meet Gadkari several times and no meeting ever took place.
He said he would be happy to be expelled from the party if someone has the guts to do so, but he would not quit on his own and betray the nation which is a flux over issues of corruption and lack of political acumen of Congress leaders like Rahul Gandhi.
"This is not the time for me to leave the party and betray the nation. One one hand you have a person like Rahul Gandhi who cannot distinguish between Kargil war and FDI and on other you have Gadkari who brackets Vivekananda with Dawood Ibrahim," said Ram Jethmalani.
He said while Modi might not take over as the president of BJP since he is busy with Gujarat, the western state´s chief minister is definitely the best candidate for the post of PM.
The legal eagle said common people´s voice has to be understood and they think that corruption must go from this country and hence Gadkari´s continuance will cause only harm to the BJP.
Asked if RSS´s soft corner on Gadkari disappointed him, Ram Jethmalani said: "I am not let down by anybody and I am sure RSS will also think."
BJP leader Balbir Punj, meanwhile, criticised Jethmalani and said internal troubles of the party should not be discussed in public domain.
"There are enough opportunities and internal mechanisms available within the party where anybody can raise any issue concerning the party," Punj told media.
"Therefore, those who are trying to publicize the problems concerning the party, they are not doing any service either to the party or to the ideology to which they are supposed to be committed," he said.
A day ago Ram Jethmalani´s son Mahesh Jethmalani resigned addressing a letter directly to Gadkari and saying that it was morally and intellectually not possible for him to carry on in the BJP national executive committee as long as he continued as the party president.
"Dear Nitinji, I deem it morally and intellectually inappropriate to continue to serve on the party´s National Executive Committee as long as you are the President of the BJP. I hereby tender my resignation from the same," read Mahesh Jethmalani´s resignation letter.
Gadkari has been accused of using shell companies to fund his business and of receiving investments from contractors in Maharashtra.
Gadkari refuted the charges of using shell companies to fund his business and of receiving investments from contractors in Maharashtra.
Political opponents of the BJP chief had alleged that Gadkari´s Purti group of companies accepted loans and investments from DP Mhaiskar, the founder of the Ideal Road Builders, which are quid pro quo.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has alleged that Rajya Sabha MP of BJP Ajay Sancheti was given coal block in single bidding due to his closeness with Gadkari, a charge the latter denied and backed up by filing a defamation suit against Singh.
Earlier social activists turned politician Arvind Kejriwal accused Gadkari of having ties with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra to boost his business interests in Vidarbha region at the cost of poor farmers who are committing suicide.
Gadkari opposing the charges said, this is an effort to politically malign him.
He said that his efforts were focused on helping farmers in Vidarbha.