New Delhi: BJP veterans upset over the suspension of party MP Kirti Azad met here on Thursday and authorized former president L.K. Advani to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to express their anguish.
A meeting of the veterans at the residence of Murli Manohar Joshi, another former BJP president, also decided to demand an internal panel to probe the charges of corruption in Delhi’s cricket body hurled by Azad against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Jaitley, a confidant of Modi, headed the Delhi and District Cricket Association for 13 years until 2013. He has denied the allegations, and sued Delhi Chief Minster Arvind Kejriwal for calling him corrupt in the DDCA affair.
Advani was closeted with Joshi and BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar, party insiders said.
Shanta Kumar, a former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, refused to reveal what was discussed. “Yes, we met, we discussed things, we had tea. I can’t say more.”
But party sources said the veterans felt that Azad’s suspension for “anti-party activities” on Wednesday had sent out a wrong message since the cricketer-turned-politician had for years campaigned against financial wrongdoing in the DDCA.
The sources said the veterans were of the view the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership did not follow the proper procedure while acting against Azad, a three-time Lok Sabha member from Bihar and son of former Bihar chief minister Bhagwat Jha Azad.
They argued that the party should have sent a show cause notice to Azad, waited for his reply and then acted after a due meeting of the party’s parliamentary board.
Instead, it was seen that BJP president Amit Shah, another Modi confidant, presided over the decision after failing to persuade Azad from addressing the media on the DDCA issue. Ahead of the suspension, Jaitley dubbed Azad a “Trojan Horse”.
“Some of them feel that action has been taken against a person who acted like a whistle-blower,” an informed source told IANS.
The suspension of Azad would harm the party, the veterans are reported to have concluded.
In a related development, over 100 supporters of Azad, who was in the Indian cricket team that won the 1983 World Cup, staged a noisy protest outside the BJP headquarters here against his suspension.
After his suspension, Azad sought justice from the BJP’s “Marg Darshak Mandal” which comprises of Advani, Joshi, the ailing former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Thursday’s was not a meeting of the Mandal but of the veterans who also took a stand widely seen as critical of Modi and Shah after the BJP’s huge defeat in the November assembly polls in Bihar.
There was no official comment from the BJP on the veterans’ meet. BJP leader Srikant Sharma merely told the media that the party “respected the senior leaders”.
Advani, Joshi, Shanta Kumar and former finance minister Sinha are known to be unhappy with the working style of Shah.
After the Bihar setback, they demanded “a thorough review” of the debacle. They said the defeat showed the party had learnt nothing from its crushing defeat by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi in February.
The AAP and the Congress have come out in support of Azad, who reiterated on Wednesday that his suspension was “unfortunate” and that his fight was against corruption and not any individual.