New Delhi: Nitin Gadkari may look like a halwai with a bad conscience, but he is not corrupt in the way of Arvind Kejriwal's quick and easy, black-and-white formulation. Old-time politicians and former officials this writer spoke to, with no axe to grind in the matter, but troubled by recent events, feel the same way. RSS, which has strong views on corruption, and whose top leaders lead spartan lives, never having married, and remaining distant from their families, has come out in Gadkari's support, and this should clear the air a bit. And yet, if Gadkari is serious about politics, he must shed his unconventional ways, and distance from all business-like activities in Maharashtra and elsewhere. Nor must his former business cronies benefit from his top position in BJP, and the BJP collective leadership and RSS must step in to firewall the party from baneful influences.

All said and done, BJP is a party with a difference. It is the first-ranking, non-dynastic party in the country, followed by CPI-M in a distant second place. Regional parties such as Nitish Kumar's JD-U, Navin Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal (the name is awfully dynastic), Mamata Bannerjee's Trinamool Congress and J.Jayalalithaa's AIADMK are taking the non-dynastic course for now, but their true characters can be determined only post their present maximum leaders. On the other hand, Congress has institutionalized corruption, with Vadragate bringing no surprise anywhere. (Ironically, the first Nehru-Gandhi son-in-law fought corruption in the Congress government.) And dynastic parties set in the mould of Congress such as Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, Laloo Prasad Yadav's RJD, DMK, Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and so forth are steeped in corruption, and cannot be expected to assist with cleansing the system. Alarm bells should be ringing in BJP when Sharad Pawar, arguably one of the richest Indian politicians, whose name has been tagged with the Lavasa scandal for years, gives a clean chit to Nitin Gadkari. Can BJP afford a party president who is buffeted by scandalous allegations every other day?

What Arvind Kejriwal did on Gadkari was moral equivalency, clear and simple. After Vadragate and the attack on Salman Khursheed's trust, India Against Corruption had to take a swipe at BJP, or it would be labeled anti-Congress, or so Kejriwal & Co. feared. If your intentions are honourable, you won't have such fears. Certainly, there is no reason why BJP shouldn't be investigated. Being the principal opposition party gives it no cover or immunity. But what Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Anjali Damani served up against Gadkari pales into insignificance compared to what or rather who they painted out of the scenery, namely Sharad Pawar. Anjali Damania, since, has been outed as a real-estate sharp, with a bone to pick against the Maharashtra government, and in legal circles, Prashant Bhushan and his father raise strong eyebrows. With such companions, Arvind Kejriwal can only have a short and unhappy life as a politician, which is not such a good thing.

Sadder is the fate of BJP to be stuck with Nitin Gadkari as president. This writer has not accepted the way Gadkari was foisted on BJP by the RSS, and he has been approved for a second term despite internal opposition. Gadkari's second presidential term cannot be revoked now, but he should be prohibited from persisting in his present style. At a minimum, he must disengage from all business activities in Maharashtra, and keep only the most non-controversial links with NGOs working on the ground in impoverished Vidarbha. It is true that an MP cannot be cut off from his people, but this relationship can be managed in a manner that does not generate red faces in Delhi. Nitin Gadkari may not be corrupt, but the public perceives him with suspicion now. That should worry BJP and RSS. BJP's decision to fight charges against him politically does not make sense if the idea is to clear his name once for all.

In the end, it is about BJP. After eight years of Congress misrule (now we have former cabinet secretary K.M.Chandrasekhar's shocking revelation about 2G), voters have hopes from BJP. BJP's central leadership has been by and large inadequate to the task of fighting the Congress, and Narendra Modi has, therefore, become the messiah-in-waiting. In such uncertainty, Nitin Gadkari has become an eyesore and an embarrassment, not fit to be captain of any boat. He must shape up or ship out.