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Explained: How the BJP’s image takes a beating with Eknath Khadse’s exit

The biggest setback to the party will be in terms of huge image beating. Khadse’s association with the BJP goes way back to the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), a forerunner of the BJP.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: October 28, 2020 8:42:59 am
eknath khadse, eknath khadse bjp, eknath khadse ncp, devendra fadnavis, sharad pawar, maharashra politics, maharashtra newsEknath Khadse, the senior most leader of the Maharashtra BJP, broke ties with the party after failing to regain his political importance within the organisation. (Express Photo by Prashant Nadkar/File)

Senior Maharashtra BJP leader Eknath Khadse resigned from the primary membership of the party on Wednesday. Khadse, who had been sulking ever since he was made toresign as a minister in 2016 from the then Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government over corruption allegations, is set to join the NCP on Friday.

Why did Khadse resign from the BJP?

The senior state BJP leader’s exit from the party comes on the heels of his failed attempts to regain political importance within the organisation. Increasingly feeling sidelined by the party, Khadse was vying for a Maharashtra Legislative Council seat (MLC) earlier this year. He was also hoping to get some role in BJP president JP Nadda’s new team or a promise from the Centre to be considered for a Cabinet post if the party was voted to power in the state again.

Did Maharashtra BJP take any initiative to retain him?

Whether it was the state or the central leadership, the message to Khadse was loud and clear not to dictate terms in the organisation. The state BJP had retained him as a member in the core committee, which is also its highest decision-making body. But the party had made it clear that Khadse would remain as the valued senior leader who would guide the party.

In the 2019 Assembly elections, Khadse was denied a ticket from his home constituency, Muktainagar. This was a body blow to the senior leader. The BJP fielded his daughter, Rohini Khadse, from the seat who, however, lost to rebel Shiv Sena leader turned Independent candidate Chandrakant Nimba Patil.

Also read | As Eknath Khadse joins NCP, what does Sharad Pawar’s party gain?

What impact will Khadse’s resignation have on the BJP?

The biggest setback to the party will be in terms of huge image beating. Khadse’s association with the BJP goes way back to the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), a forerunner of the BJP. His image as a hard-working, loyal party worker who made immense contribution in building the organisation is etched on the minds of people in the BJP. His decision to quit the BJP may also have an impact on a sizeable section of the Leva Patil community (under the OBC), to which Khadse belongs. If the message of wrongdoing strikes a chord, Khadse may gain sympathy.

State BJP president Chandrakant Patil said, “We never expected Khadse would take such an extreme step. We had promised to meet and resolve the differences through discussions… He should not have left.”

In the current political scenario, the BJP, however, does not expect any mass exodus of party workers in a show of solidarity with Khadse. The party believes Khadse’s following is restricted to Muktainagar constituency, from where he was elected for six consecutive terms between 1989 and 2019. Yet, in 2019 Assembly polls, he could not get his daughter to win from the seat.

Khadse’s daughter-in-law, Raksha Khadse, a two-term Lok Sabha MP from Raver constituency in Jalgaon in North Maharashtra, has refused to leave the BJP. Thus, giving the party a chance to point out how limited clout Khadse wields in North Maharashtra.

BJP general secretary, Shrikant Bharatiya, said Khadse’s decision to quit the party would cause “more damage to him than the party”. Since 2016, after Khadse was dropped from the Fadnavis-led Cabinet following corruption charges in a Pune land deal, the BJP had propped then water resources minister Girish Mahajan as the OBC leader of North Maharashtra.

The 2019 Assembly elections saw Mahajan exercising greater authority in decision-making in matters pertaining to the region. Whether it was the selection of candidates or poll campaign, Khadse had no role in the 2019 polls.

Political managers in the BJP say Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Amit Shah’s politics has no place for revolt. Khadse had gone public against Fadnavis since 2016. He closed all the options for himself because of his “outburst and impatience”. Therefore, attempts to seek a Rajya Sabha seat or the vice-president post in central BJP was out of the question. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

How does Khadse’s exit help the NCP?

NCP president Sharad Pawar has played his political card shrewdly. A section within the NCP wanted Khadse to first get his daughter-in-law Rohini to resign from Lok Sabha if he wanted a plum role in the organisation. But Pawar senior prevailed over them.

The NCP, which is organisationally weak in North Maharashtra, will use Khadse to settle the score and sully the image of the BJP in the coming years. More importantly, the NCP knows Khadse’s personal bitterness against former CM Devendra Fadnavis, and will use him to tarnish the latter’s image.

READ | Khadse has made me a villain to justify his act: Devendra Fadnavis

The state BJP, led by Fadnavis, with consent from central leaders has been working hard to dislodge the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. The NCP reckons that Fadnavis, an aggressive opposition leader, needs to be reined.

Insiders believe Khadse’s resignation could set the stage for more people to look at the Congress and the NCP as credible options if they sense the MVA government was stable. Especially, leaders from the sugar belt in western Maharashtra, who had joined the BJP ahead of 2019 polls.

Why are Fadnavis and Khadse at loggerheads?

Since Fadnavis became the chief minister of Maharashtra on October 31, 2014, Khadse could never reconcile with his junior upper-caste Brahmin in a coveted position. Khadse harboured the ambition of becoming the first OBC CM.

Although he was given number the two position in the state Cabinet with important portfolios of revenue and agriculture, Khadse never missed an opportunity to attack Fadnavis in public forums and the media. In 2016, when charges of corruption were levelled against Khadse in connection with Pune land scam, the party asked him to step down. He was never reinstated in the government. Khadse believes it was Fadnavis who had plotted cleverly to sideline him from the government first and then the organisation systematically.

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