Khadse (68) blamed Fadnavis for "trying to destroy his life" and political career
Mumbai: Sulking since his unceremonious exit from the Devendra Fadnavis-led ministry in 2016, senior Maharashtra BJP leader Eknath Khadse on Wednesday quit the party and will join the Sharad Pawar-led NCP later this week.
Speaking to reporters, Khadse (68) blamed Fadnavis for "trying to destroy his life" and political career, over three decades of it spent in strengthening the BJP in Maharashtra.
NCP minister Jayant Patil said Khadse will join the NCP on Friday, ending prolonged speculation over the latter's next political move.
Khadse has been sulking after he had to resign from the Fadnavis-led ministry in 2016 over corruption allegations. Patil, who is also the state NCP chief, said with the joining of a seasoned leader like Khadse, who was also former leader of opposition in the state Assembly, the NCP will be strengthened, particularly in north Maharashtra's Khandesh region, from where Khadse hails.
The seniormost minister in the Fadnavis ministry, Khadse resigned as revenue minister in 2016 over land grab allegations, and was since then largely sidelined in the BJP.
Patil claimed "a lot of people" want to join the NCP. "As per my information, a lot of MLAs are in touch with him," the minister said. He said he is sure the BJP will introspect as to why a senior leader like Khadse quit the party. Asked about the role Khadse will be given in the NCP, Patil said, "The party will take a decision about it...he has consented to work under the leadership of Pawar saheb."
Eknath Khadse's daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse is BJP's Lok Sabha member from Raver seat in north Maharashtra.
Khadse lashed out at Fadnavis after quitting the BJP and claimed that the former chief minister instructed the police to implicate him in a fake harassment case. Talking about how he "suffered" in the BJP, Khadse said, "The then CM (Fadnavis) instructed police to register FIR against me on false allegation of harassment by a woman. He said the case would be withdrawn later. Inquiries for corruption was initiated against me in which I came clean." Khadse said Fadnavis tried to destroy his (political) life.
Responding to the charges levelled by Khadse against him, Fadnavis (50) said his former BJP colleague was speaking "half truth". "If he had complaints about me, he would have told seniors of the party," Fadnavis said. Terming Khadse's resignation as unfortunate, Fadnavis said, "It would have been better had he not resigned." "I will not speak about this today but will do so at a proper time," Fadnavis said, adding Khadse had painted him a villain while making the allegations against him.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the BJP should think why are its foundation stones coming off when it is reaching the pinnacle of success. Thackeray said Khadse is "definitely welcome" to the family of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. Thackeray said Khadse is among the leaders who expanded the BJP's base in parts of the state along with Pramod Mahajan aind Gopinath Munde. Khadse has a separate identity, is a fighter and a straight-forward leader, the Shiv Sena president said.
"We (Shiv Sena) left the NDA, the Shiromani Akali Dal also left the alliance recently. Now Khadse is also not with the BJP. Hence, the BJP should think about it. Being an old friend of the BJP, it is my duty to alert them," he said.
Terming Khadse's decision to quit the BJP unfortunate, Union minister Raosaheb Danve said the issues he had could have been resolved with time. "Due to some reasons, he was away from the main flow of politics, but that doesn't mean Khadse should leave the BJP. This is unfortunate," Danve said.
"The party has received Khadse's resignation. We tried to dissuade him, but our efforts were in vain. We wish good luck for his political future," state BJP's chief spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said. When asked about the future of Raksha Khadse in BJP, he said she has maintained that she will continue with the BJP and "we have no issues with it."
Many BJP leaders in Maharashtra expressed shock and disappointment over Khadse's decision to quit the party. BJP's state unit chief Chandrakant Patil said, "We were hopeful that Khadse would stay with the party, until I received his resignation today." "We were optimistic about finding a solution through dialogue and move ahead irrespective of his disappointment with some leaders...I wish him good luck for his future journey," he said.
BJP's former state unit chief Sudhir Mungantiwar said the party needs to think about why Khadse decided to quit. "Khadse's decision to leave the party has come as a major shock to the BJP's state unit. He had worked for the growth of the party for several years. I think the party needs to think why such a senior leader decided to quit," he said.