Senior BJP leader and former minister Eknath Khadse Thursday, while sharing a political platform with rival Congress that invited him to join the party, warned that he should not be forced to quit the BJP. The function was held at Jalgaon, the hometown of Khadse. Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan gave him an open invitation to join the Congress.
Expressing disappointment with the BJP, Khadse said, “I would like to make it clear that I don’t want to leave the BJP. But at the same time you (BJP leaders) don’t force me to leave BJP.” Khadse, facing a probe for alleged corruption in a Pune MIDC land deal, said, “First tell me what is my crime. And if I have committed a crime, put me in prison. But why am I being punished without any mistake.”
He said, “Rahate the jinke dil mein, hum jaan se bhi pyaron ki tarah; baithe hain unhi ke kuche mein hum aaj gunehgaro ki tarah.” Translated, it means, “I stand like a criminal in the company of those very people with whom I have lived as friends.”
Such outbursts have been frequent, but the BJP top leadership had taken a stand not to re-instate him as cabinet minister till he was absolved of all corruption charges. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is probing the land scam.
The Congress, meanwhile, invited Khadse to join the party. Chavan said, “We have decided to open our doors for you. You are welcome to be part of the Congress.”
Khadse was non-committal about joining the Congress. A few months ago, NCP leaders had also invited Khadse to join their party. BJP state president Raosaheb Danve said, “The BJP holds Khadse in highest reverence and values his contribution to the organisation. There are some issues pending against Khadse, which if cleared, would help us reinstate him.” Danve was sure that “Khadse will not quit the BJP”.
He reiterated that the decision to step down from the cabinet was taken by Khadse following charges of corruption levelled by the Congress-NCP. He said, “The Congress and NCP have no moral right to invite Khadse in their party. They were the ones who raised questions against Khadse’s conduct and forced his resignation.” Khadse had held several important portfolios.
Earlier, the government had appointed a retired Bombay High Court Justice Dinkar Zoting to probe the land scam. The report has been submitted to the government. However. following directives from the court, the ACB was asked to probe the scam. The government said the Zoting report had become irrelevant in the wake of the ACB probe, and they will have to wait for the ACB to conclude its investigation before taking any decision on Khadse.
The BJP also pointed out that Khadse remained a senior member of the party’s core committee which takes all important decisions.