Nitin Gadkari
Nitin GadkariReuters

BJP President Nitin Gadkari apologized on Tuesday for hurting public sentiments through his remarks, but denied comparing Swami Vivekananda with underworld gangster Dawood Ibrahim.

"I would like to reiterate that I never compared Swami Vivekananda with anyone. I had absolutely no no intention to project Swami Vivekananda in bad light.

"If my words about Swami Vivekananda have hurt the public sentiments in any manner, I express my sincere regrets," he said in a statement, PTI reported.

Gadkari was under attack from the opposition and a section of his party over his statement comparing the Intelligence Quotient of spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda with fugitive don Dawood.

"As per psychology, if we can compare the IQ level of Swami Vivekananda and that of Dawood Ibrahim, then it could have been the same. But Vivekananda used it in nation building, brotherhood and spiritualism, while Dawood used that in excelling in crime world," Gadkari was reported to have said in a speech at Bhopal on Sunday.

Gadkari said he always took inspiration from Vivekananda and his statement was taken out of context and misinterpreted to create controversy.

The BJP top brass is under mounting pressure from other political parties owing to his string of controversies. The opposition and his rivals within his party have been demanding his resignation over allegations of irregularities in his companies.

Gadkari's gaffe has exposed the divide in the main opposition party, and the growing frustration within the party cadres against its chief is coming out in the open, much to the embarrassment of its leaders.

However, RSS and BJP core group are unlikely to let him down at this stage as his resignation will be projected by the opposition as an admission of his guilt. So far, both parties have stayed firm in their support for Gadkari.

"The media reports that I am not supporting Shri Nitin Gadkari are absolutely false. I have always supported him and I reiterate my support," tweeted senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj.  

Furthermore, Gadkari's resignation would mean that BJP will have to elect a new party president and that again will escalate and expose the factional feud in the party.  

The corruption accusation against Gadkari, who is an RSS nominee, has helped the ruling Congress party to nullify corruption allegations against its leaders by India Against Corruption activist Aravind Kejriwal.