The buzz about senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse’s re-induction in the Maharashtra cabinet grew on Wednesday. The Indian Express had reported that the one-man inquiry commission, set up to probe allegations of impropriety against Khadse had submitted its report to the government. While Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was silent on the commission’s findings, senior sources indicated that the CM will soon hold deliberations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah over the possibility of Khadse’s political rehabilitation. The senior BJP leader, who was once the official number two in the Fadnavis government, has been sulking ever since he was asked to step down from his ministerial position on June 4 last year, following accusations of impropriety in a Pune land deal.
Although the inquiry commission was expected to submit its report within three months of formation on June 23 last year, its report was submitted on June 30 this year. Khadse, who shares an uneasy relationship with Fadnavis, has been firing veiled barbs at the CM over being “sidelined.” Even as highly placed government sources indicated that the inquiry commission had passed strictures against Khadse in the Pune land deal case, a senior BJP minister confirmed that the mood in Maharashtra BJP was in “favour” of Khadse’s comeback.
“He (Khadse) has been sitting on the sidelines for over a year. The general mood in the party is that he has been punished enough and must now be re-inducted,” said a senior minister, who requested not to be named. “A decision in the matter (commission’s report) would be taken at an appropriate time,” Fadnavis said on Wednesday. Earlier, he had told The Indian Express that he was yet to access the report.
Amit Shah’s gesture of holding a one-on-one deliberation with Khadse during his visit to Mumbai in June this year is being interpreted by some senior leaders in the BJP as a sign of Khadse’s possible political rehabilitation. While the CM is unlikely to take any public stance before holding deliberations with the party’s central leadership, reliable sources said he wasn’t completely averse to Khadse’s comeback either.
Khadse was handling the crucial Agricultural and Revenue portfolios before he had to step down. Some of his supporters in the party claim that his experience and negotiation skills could have been put to good use during the recent farmers’ stir. There are some in the party who feel that the accusations against Khadse had created a “negative perception” about him among a section of citizens and they fear his re-induction could hit the party’s “clean image”.
Besides the commission’s report, there is also an FIR filed against Khadse in the same case. Investigations in this case are still ongoing. Sources pointed out that Khadse’s re-induction was unlikely till the disposal of this case. Khadse’s clout in North Maharashtra and among the OBC community is being seen as factors in his favour for a comeback. The party’s high command will have a decisive say in this regard.
Meanwhile, Congress’s Maharashtra chief Ashok Chavan demanded that the commission’s report be made public. “It should be placed before the state legislature,” he said on Wednesday.