Gadkari front-runner in BJP presidential race

New Delhi, Jan 3 (IANS) BJP president Nitin Gadkari appears to be frontrunner for a second term in office as the party weighs its options for the crucial decision which is likely to be taken by the middle of this month, said informed sources.

The sources said that Gadkari has an edge in the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) presidential sweepstakes as he continues to have backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) despite some demands from within the party against giving him a second term in the wake of allegations relating to financial wrongdoing in Purti Group linked to him.

"He is the frontrunner as no other name has emerged so far. There is no unanimity on any alternate name so far," a party leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told IANS.

Party sources said discussions on the issue of presidential choice had been going on at individual level among senior leaders so far and a collective view is yet to be taken by the leadership.

"Party's core group is yet to meet on the issue though there have been discussions between individual leaders," said a party functionary.

The BJP is, at present, going through organisational elections which will lead finally to the election of the party president.

The sources said elections of office-bearers of about 22 state party units are expected to be completed by Jan 10, setting the stage for issuing notification for the presidential poll.

They said the party constitution makes it mandatory for at least 50 percent of state units to complete the process of their elections before the notification for the party's presidential poll is issued.

"The picture on the party's choice of next president is expected to be clear by the middle of the month," the party functionary said.

He said there was "no tension or cross-cutting" in the party on the issue of presidential poll.

"There is an overall consensus that there should be a good team for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and everyone should get a role and respect. All are agreeable to face the challenge in a united manner," he added.

While a section of the party continues to feel that the public perception on Gadkari's linkage to controversy surrounding the Purti Group has not radically changed, there is also a strong view that the issue was not serious.

"The issue is not as serious as the media wanted us to believe," a BJP leader said and added that there was no case.

The party has already given a clean chit to Gadkari on the alleged wrongdoings in investments in Purti Group, based on the probe done by S. Gurumurthy, a financial analyst considered close to the RSS.

The sources said Gadkari's continuation is likely to suit prime ministerial contenders of the party, including Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

They said that the party's national council meeting was likely to be held by March, and it will be addressed by the newly-elected BJP president.

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