New Delhi, Nov. 13: S. Gurumurthy virtually disowned Nitin Gadkari and then defended him again in a span of four hours today, from noon to evening,
The flip-flops, by the Chennai-based chartered accountant and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh "adviser", came on his Twitter site.
Gurumurthy later deleted the initial tweets that indicated he had distanced himself from the BJP president. He alleged that a news channel had "misinterpreted" them.
BJP and Sangh sources admitted they were "surprised" by Gurumurthy's comment that he had not given Gadkari a "clean chit" because he ostensibly was not in the habit of giving clean chits to persons he did not know at all.
To him, Gurumurthy contended, Gadkari was an unknown entity.
Gurumurthy had last week been tasked ' believed to be at the behest of RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat ' to probe allegations of financial irregularities against Gadkari and his business associates because it was increasingly becoming untenable for the Sangh to allow its man to continue heading the BJP.
The occasional investigative journalist's hush-hush probe ' which surprised the BJP ' exonerated Gadkari of the charges levelled against him in serial media exposes. The RSS-orchestrated defence pushed the BJP to express "solidarity" with its chief despite reservations privately harboured by many leaders.
Rajya Sabha MP Ram Jethmalani and his son, Mahesh, a member of the BJP's national executive, served a quit notice on Gadkari. Another national executive member, Jagadish Shettigar, suggested that as a "loyal swayamsevak", he should heed the "call of conscience" and voluntarily resign.
Gadkari votaries in the RSS dismissed Jethmalani as an over-the-hill maverick and Shettigar as a "frustrated has-been".
But it is learnt that many of Gurumurthy's former associates in the Sangh and the BJP had chided him for doing a "command" job they feared would "thoroughly compromise" the "parivar's anti-corruption credentials".
At 12.30 today, Gurumurthy's first tweet said: "I have not given clean chit to Gadkari. I cannot give clean chit to anyone who I don't know fully. I don't know Gadkari at all."
In the next tweet, he said his view was that a party president should not be in business because that "always invites problems and creates perceptions".
Gurumurthy added: "The perception about Gadkari is a political problem which he and his party have to tackle. I handled only the facts."
Claiming that he "cared little whether Gadkari remains the president or not", Gurumurthy maintained that had "anyone else" sought his opinion, he would have "done the same thing".
He also said he had "never thought" of Gadkari until he thought of calling a CA friend in Nagpur who was also the BJP chief's accountant when the alleged scam involving Gadkari's Purti group came under media glare.
His tweets were construed as a nail in Gadkari's coffin and raised questions on whether the BJP head would last out his term.
Then Gurumurthy's "correctives" started rolling in.
His case rested on semantics: he claimed he had given Gadkari a "clear" chit as against a "clean" chit.
The "Concise Oxford English Dictionary" defines clean as "showing or having no record of offences or crimes"; "done according to the rules"; and "free from irregularities". "Clear", according to the dictionary, is "show or declare officially to be innocent" and "no longer in danger or under suspicion".
Calls and messages to Gurumurthy's phone remained unanswered.
If the COED is a guide, then his verdict was Gadkari was indubitably innocent.
One of his last tweets said as much. "I think I am being misinterpreted," it said. "I have clearly said that the media allegations against Gadkari are false. If this is a clean chit I have given it."