Cracking the whip, BJP President Nitin Gadkari today suspended a defiant Ram Jethmalani from the party with immediate effect for daring it to act against him on the CBI chief's appointment issue, saying it was "gross indiscipline".
A meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Board has been convened tomorrow at 4.30 PM to take a call on his expulsion, party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters here.
"Our party president Nitin Gadkari has taken cognizance of Ram Jethmalani's statements and his challenge that no action can be taken against him and has suspended his membership of the party with immediate effect," he said.
Jethmalani invited the BJP wrath after attacking the party for criticising the appointment of new CBI Director Ranjit Sinha.
The 86-year-old lawyer-turned-politician followed this up with remarks today in Mumbai that no action can be taken against him by the BJP, virtually challenging the authority of Gadkari and other top leaders.
Hussain said since the BJP Constitution gives the right to expel an MP or MLA only to the party's Parliamentary Board- the highest decision making body of the organisation-Gadkari has convened its meeting tomorrow afternoon to decide on Jethmalani's expulsion from the party.
"A decision on Jethmalani's expulsion will be taken by the Parliamentary Board tomorrow," Hussain said.
Today's decision was not unexpected and the party had indicated yesterday that strong action against Jethmalani may be taken.
Jethmalani, BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan, has been speaking against the BJP top brass for the past few years.
His tirade began with an attack on Gadkari when he asked the BJP President to step down immediately in the wake of charges of dubious funding of his Purti Group. His son and party leader Mahesh had also made the same demand.
The second salvo from Jethmalani came yesterday when he wrote to Gadkari criticising the BJP stand against the appointment of Sinha as the next CBI Director.
Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding that Sinha's appointment be kept in abeyance as the Select Committee of Rajya Sabha on Lokpal had suggested that the CBI director should be appointed by a collegium and this had not been followed by the government.
"Jethmalani's statement opposing the two leaders- Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj- has helped the Congress. The party has taken it seriously as sees it as falling within the ambit of gross indiscipline. The party cannot allow any of its members to make such public statements (against the party)," Hussain said.
He maintained that Jethmalani's actions have harmed the party.
BJP sources said action against Jethmalani was also warranted as other leaders like Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha have been speaking against the top leadership. This is likely to serve as a warning to them to fall in line. Both these Lok Sabha MPs have said Gadkari should resign.
Jethmalani is considered close to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and is helping him fight the 2002 riots cases.
Earlier, an article by RSS ideologue M G Vaidya on his blog had said Jethmalani was acting at Modi's behest.
The RSS has also been unhappy with Jethmalani's attacks on Gadkari, who is the Sangh's protege.
In Mumbai, Jethmalani said many in the party shared his views, but "few had the capacity" to express their views openly.
He, however, clarified that his views on Sinha's appointment were his own and not of the BJP, where "I am a small person."
"If there is any action taken against me, I will welcome it but I don't think anyone has the guts to take any action against me," he told reporters on the sidelines of a launching of a book written by a city-based journalist.
Yesterday, Jethmalani had attacked the party for criticising the appointment of new CBI Director and said the government's decision has "averted national calamity".
On if there were more people in the party having a similar stand, Jethmalani said, "I am sure there are more. I am 100 per cent sure that there are many more, many more but all don't have the capacity to speak the truth publicly and openly."
In Delhi, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said Jethmalani's suspension was an "internal matter of the BJP"
© Copyright PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of any PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.