'Modi is best person to replace Gadkari as BJP chief'
Senior Supreme Court advocate and BJP leader Ram Jethmalani speaks to PC on Nitin Gadkari, his suspension from the party, Narendra Modi and a slew of other issues during Teekhi Baat on IBN7. Excerpts:
What is your decision—to finish the BJP or improve it?
To improve it, and in the interest of the party, I said something little in public.
It is not something little; you said that the party chief should resign.
His term is about to expire, I think in this very month. If he had resigned a month before, what problem would the party have had? There would have been no problem. It would have enhanced his prestige.
But why could you not have waited for one month?
Because public does not wait; ask the public.
You should have discussed it in the party forum.
I discussed it in the party forum. I speak to everybody, but when nothing happens, then I speak to the press.
Do you feel Nitin Gadkari’s crime is greater than others?
I never said that Nitin Gadkari has committed a crime. Kejriwal had levelled allegations against him. I think Gadkari saab should have created a tradition. His prestige would have increased had he listened to my advice that till the allegations against him were not cleared he would not sit on the post.
Kejriwal levelled allegations against 16 ministers; nobody resigned, and you are asking your party president to resign. Even Gurumurthy said that things have been wrongly alleged.
Who is Gurumurthy to say? What happens if he says?
Gurumurthy said morally, ethically, legally Gadkari is not at fault.
He may be right, he may be wrong. I can’t say and I am not prepared to say that he is wrong. But this requires a probe which is already taking place which Mr. Gadkari himself has volunteered to undergo... If Gadkari saab meets me and tells me that I am innocent, I will believe him fully. But that is not enough for public life.
The Congress will benefit by defaming the BJP.
Congress will like such a leader to continue in the BJP.
Somebody senior like you could have got everybody together and moved ahead.
If somebody does not listen to me, then I should be able to tell my conscience that I have done my duty.
But Gadkari fought for you to get you the Rajya Sabha ticket, your enemies say.
I am sorry; Gadkari saab did not help me, nor anybody else. BJP wanted me, they invited me.
Don’t you think that your party is suffering loss due to this?
No, not at all. There is no loss, the party is benefitting. The more the party becomes pure, the more it will get strengthened.
You have been served notice by the party.
Let them do it. If they take action, I will say that on the path of truth I have become a martyr.
You are ready to be martyred.
I am always willing to be martyred.
Do you think that Kejriwal is more credible than Gadkari?
Kejriwal is a respectable man, he is not in office and he has now started a party. And he is fighting with truth. According to me, there is a lot of truth in what he, the poor fellow, says. And somebody must give him respect.
Among Gadkari and Kejriwal, whom do you believe more?
I got to hear about Gadkari saab’s defence from Gurumurthy saab. I have not heard it from Gadkari saab. This is my complaint with Gadkari saab. If Gadkari saab had called me and explained that this was the truth, this was what the documents stated, I would be his first defender. And I will be a better defender than Gurumurthy.
Are you ready to listen to him now and will you change your opinion after that?
Of course. I am that man who will apologise if I have wronged somebody.
Even today if Gadkari explains you his deals and conduct, you are ready to listen to him.
I don’t want to call Gadkari in the situation of an accused. But as a friend, companion and comrade, if he comes to me and tells me that these are the issues, which Kejriwal has raised, and proves that they are false, then I will be the first person to go to the public and defend him. Like I defend everybody whom I want to defend.
As one of the few remaining founders who are serving now, do you think there is anybody left who can lead now?
It will be crass for me to comment that I see no leader. There are leaders and I have named at least one such leader publicly; even that has created issues.
I have said the person most qualified to be India’s prime minister is Mr Modi.
You don’t think there is anybody to replace Gadkari?
I will have to think.
Don’t you think that anybody other than Modi can become leader this time?
I don’t think that Modi should even take the responsibility of running the office of president; he is a prime ministerial candidate.
You would not like to take anybody’s name for the post of BJP president.
No, not now.
Nobody is qualified at the moment according to you?
I have said that if Modi saab is qualified to become the prime minister, certainly he is qualified to become the president of the party. But I don’t want him to take both, unless he wants to take up both.
You mean he is the most suitable for both the posts?
Both the posts.
Will he become or not?
Well, we will see.