Former Maharashtra minister Eknath Khadse, who had been upset with the BJP since 2016 when he was forced to resign from the Devendra Fadnavis government over allegations of corruption, resigned from the party on Wednesday.
Khadse, who will join the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Friday, blamed Fadnavis for his decision to quit the BJP, the party with which he has been associated from the time of its Jana Sangh avatar.
Khadse on Wednesday sent a two-line letter to the state BJP president Chandrakant Patil, announcing his resignation. “I have decided to resign from the BJP for personal reasons,” he said in the letter.
The 68-year-old leader, who won six elections in a row from Muktainagar in Jalgaon district from 1989 onward, was denied a ticket for the 2019 Assembly election by the BJP.
“I am not upset with BJP. I have resigned because of mental harassment by Fadnavis,” Khadse said. “Fadnavis destroyed my life and career.”
State NCP president Jayant Patil announced on Wednesday: “Khadse will join the NCP. The party will accord him an important role in the organisation.” The NCP was, however, tightlipped on the possibility of a ministerial position for Khadse.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, meanwhile, took on BJP, saying: “BJP should introspect why the ground under its feet is slipping.”
Khadse’s daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse is a BJP MP from Raver. “She will make her own decision,” Khadse said. “She has not quit (the BJP). She is not joining NCP.”
Khadse believes Fadnavis deliberately entangled him in a series of cases to undermine his progress in the BJP.
In 2016, he had to relinquish his ministerial berth on corruption charges in a land deal in Pune. The state anti-corruption bureau was investigating the case on the orders of the Bombay High Court.
It was alleged that Khadse, who was then Revenue Minister, misused his position to influence the deal for a 3.1 acre MIDC plot in Bhosari in Pune. He allegedly ensured the plot was bought by his wife and son-in-law for just Rs 3.75 crore when its actual value was Rs 30.01 crore. Khadse has denied the allegations repeatedly.
Khadse’s induction into the NCP is seen as part of a strategy to use the former to attack Fadnavis. At a press conference in the evening, Khadse said: “I was implicated in a corruption case of MIDC land… I was charged in a criminal case for assaulting a woman. The police station where the complaint was lodged refused to register a case knowing my character. But the CM office called the police asking for the FIR to be lodged. I got a clean chit later.”
Khadse said: “The mental agony caused by Fadnavis was unbearable. I often felt death was better than facing such humiliation. All the charges against me were fabricated.”
Fadnavis was guarded in his response to Khadse’s allegations.”Khadse is trying to paint me as a villain. But what he is saying is the half truth,” he said. “I don’t want to speak about his resignation. But I have already many times explained the stand on charges he has levelled.”
However, senior leader and former Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar urged the party to introspection on Khadse’s resignation.
“The party should analyse what led Khadse to take such a step. He is our respected leader whose contribution cannot be ignored,” Mungantiwar said.
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