New Delhi: After BJP chief Nitin Gadkari compared Swami Vivekananda's IQ to that of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, party leader Mahesh Jethmalani used his remark as a trigger to quit the party's national executive on Monday.
Gadkari, who was speaking at an award function in Bhopal Sunday, later denied he had compared the renowned 19th century seer with Dawood Ibrahim.
"If we could compare the IQ level of Swami Vivekananda and that of Dawood Ibrahim, then it could have been almost similar. But their direction in life is so different. While Vivekananda used it for nation building, brotherhood and spiritualism, Dawood used it for destructive purpose, to excel in the crime world," Gadkari had said at the Ojaswini felicitation programme to honour leading women in various fields.
Gadkari later said: "I did not make any comparison between Swami Vivekananda and Dawood Ibrahim. I said if one used one's intelligence properly then one could become like Vivekananda, and vice versa. I am being misquoted," he said.
The remarks, however, could add to voices within the BJP against Gadkari seeking a second term as president.
Mahesh Jethmalani, a well-known lawyer, Monday wrote to Gadkari stating that he deemed it "morally and intellectually inappropriate" to serve in the party executive as long as he was the president.
Mahesh Jethmalani also expressed dissatisfaction over Gadkari's answers to the controversy relating to Purti group associated with him.
"As far as the reasons are concerned, first on the controversy around Purti, I have not got a clear answer. Secondly, because of today's statement, comparing the IQ level of Vivekananda and Dawood. Though he has denied it, I am not satisfied," Mahesh Jethmalani told reporters.
"It is my personal opinion that he (Gadkari) should not get a second term," Mahesh Jethmalani added.
Mahesh Jethmalani clarified he would continue to serve as a party member.
His attack on Gadkari came within days of his father Ram Jethmalani, MP, asking Gadkari not to seek another term.
Ram Jethmalani, also a lawyer, had said there was suspicion about Gadkari's integrity and in the interest of the party he should not seek a second term.
The income tax department and the company affairs ministry have begun separate inquiries into firms controlled by Gadkari and its financial dealings with investor companies.
Social rights group India Against Corruption had also alleged that Gadkari had acquired farmers' land through dubious means for his trust. Gadkari had strongly denied the charges.
BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy defended Gadkari following Mahesh Jethmalani's letter, saying it was not appropriate to go to public with such comments.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said Gadkari's remarks were "yet another manifestation of their (the BJP's) culture and mentality" and demanded an apology.
BJP leader Balbir Punj, while denying that Gadkari had likened the spiritual leader with Dawood, explained that the party chief "was only stating a fact" that any kind of power, money or intellect, can be used to purse good or evil things.
"Gadkari could have done without this controversy," a party leader told IANS.
He said Gadkari was likely to complete his present three-year term unless something damaging comes out in the probe into his business dealings.
Gadkari assumed office as BJP president in December 2009.