Surajkund (Haryana): At a time when the party has raised the pitch against UPA's corruption, the BJP was given some "plain speaking" by its veteran LK Advani that its leaders should be above board on graft issues.

His forthright comments came at the valedictory session of the two-day national council that paved the way for another term as party president for incumbent Nitin Gadkari who himself has come under attack for attempted hush up in the Maharashtra irrigation scam.

Advani also told the party leadership at all levels that they must speak in one voice.

"When we criticise the Congress on corruption and there is even a whiff of corruption in our party there is so much noise. We should expect the same firm treatment to our own people," he said.

Advani's comments asking the leaders to be above board come at a time when allegations have been made by an RTI activist that attempts were made by Gadkari to hush up the irrigation scam. He has strongly denied the charges and issued a legal notice to activist Anjali Damania seeking an apology from her. She has refused to do so.

There have also been allegations that Gadkari's associate and party MP Ajay Sancheti had benefited from coal block allocations in Chhattisgarh and the irrigation scam, which he has denied.

The BJP also accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of leading his party and government in attacking and subverting constitutional institutions in a bid to shield corruption.

"This government is engaging in corruption and is then being brazen about it. Have they got any inner conscience which is needed to continue in office? This is a government of, for and by the corrupt," said Murli Manohar Joshi while moving a political resolution.

The meeting sought to send across a message to the cadre that they should shun sycophancy and be disciplined and honest to emerge as a credible alternative to the "corrupt" Congress- led UPA government.

The BJP also asked its party leaders to get battle-ready, insisting that general elections may be held before 2014. Gadkari and Advani emphasised on winning more allies and interestingly sent overtures to Muslims by condemning the recent anti-Islam film.

The BJP National Executive and National Council meet were non-controversial, unlike some of the recent conclaves, and saw even leaders like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi maintaining a low profile.

There were glitches though with former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, who has been sulking since he was removed from the top post in July last year, boycotted the conclave.

The National Council Meet will be remembered for amending the BJP constitution to give the party president two consecutive three-year terms. This will pave the way for Gadkari to seek another term once he completes his three years in December.

He will be at the helm of BJP affairs in the next elections as his second term will get over in December 2015. This decision also showed the overarching influence of the RSS on the BJP as it is the Sangh founthead's wish to give another term to Gadkari.

Advani asked the party leaders to keep up BJP's USP of being honest, patriotic, disciplined and all for probity in public life. He said the party should be ready to face the same stringent tests on corruption as it wants the Congress leaders mired in graft cases to face.

Advani maintained that only when these conditions are met will BJP be able to capitalise on people's anger against the Congress and emerge as the "credible alternative" to it.

Gadkari demanded that the BJP members shun the practice of touching feet of young leaders, saying the culture of worshipping the rising son is a Congress practice.

"BJP is not a proprietary concern or a wholesale party... Stop this drama of protocol," Gadkari said, adding that though having expectations and ambitions is natural for a political worker, party cadre should set them aside for the growth of the party.

Gadkari and Advani also tried to woo the minority saying the party does not believe in discriminating on the basis of religion.

"We need to transform NDA into NDA Plus. This involves reassuring our potential allies that they have nothing to be apprehensive about partnering with the BJP. This requires an imaginative re-projection of our commitment to secularism," Advani said.

Both Gadkari and Advani strongly condemned the anti-Islam film.

The party gave a call for over-throwing the corrupt and inefficient UPA government and to be ready for polls.

The issue of FDI in multi-brand retail also figured prominently during the BJP meet with the party demanding a rollback of the policy but taking pains to underline that it is not anti-reforms.

"We are completely opposed to FDI in multi-brand retail... If NDA is voted to power, the consequences will follow," BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, indicating that BJP-NDA may scrap the policy if it comes to power.

The party said FDI in multi-brand retail is against the interest of the small trader and it is opposed to the policy whatever be the quantum of FDI. At the same time, BJP said it is not anti-reforms.

The BJP also passed a political resolution attacking the government for subverting the constitutional institutions like CAG and PAC. In its economic resolution the party charged that government is bringing in reforms under foreign pressure.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was more in the news that his Gujarat counterpart Modi during the conclave. Chouhan was hailed by Gadkari for achieving 18 percent growth in agriculture from 2.5 per cent till some months back.

(Agencies)

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