A day after the collapse of the Devendra Fadnavis government, Eknath Khadse, an OBC leader and a BJP stalwart in Maharashtra, said he was seriously considering quitting the party after watching the “political blunders” that had undermined the image of the party.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Khadse said: “I have an offer from Shiv Sena. Even I am seriously beginning to wonder if I should accept it. After all, it makes me wonder what is the point of staying in the party which has hurt the sentiments of people by compromising on principles.”
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“The manner in which the party is functioning,” he said, “has caused a lot of anguish and embarrassment.”
Although Khadse did not directly name party leaders at the Centre or state, his ire was directed against the style of functioning in the organisation, and the decision to form a government with NCP leader Ajit Pawar.
In 2016, Khadse was forced to resign following an alleged land scandal in Pune. His repeated attempts to stage a comeback failed as he did not get any backing from the organisation, here or in Delhi. The electoral defeat of his daughter Rohini Khadse, a BJP candidate in the Assembly election by a Shiv Sena independent candidate in the family fiefdom of Muktainagar in north Maharashtra was a further setback for which he blamed the BJP.
“Especially, for a person like me whose association with Jana Sangh and BJP goes back to more than 40 years, the decision of the BJP to shake hands with Ajit Pawar’s NCP was the biggest political mistake. One decision demolished the organisation’s goodwill amongst the people. The BJP’s crusade against corruption which earned them a huge public mandate was lost with this one stroke,” Khadse said.
While maintaining that constitutionally there was nothing wrong in the Governor administering oath to the Chief Minister in secrecy, Khadse said, “The question is why did we have to take such an immature adventure. At what cost?”
He said had the organisation worked as a team with adequate consultation involving experienced leaders, both during ticket distribution and campaign, the election results would have been different. “Almost 18 to 25 seats lost were due to our in-house differences which proved detrimental and led to our downfall,” he said.
Referring to the decisions to deny poll tickets to Chandraskhekhar Bawankule, Vinod Tawde, himself amongst others, he said: “The message did not go down well among the OBC. They distanced themselves from the party.”
Another senior party functionary from Vidarbha said, “The entire government formation operation including joining hands with Ajit Pawar was a collective call taken by the state and central leadership. Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah’s agreement was sought. If the strategy failed, the responsibility should be collective. It would be unfair to single out any one leader at the Centre or state.”
BJP spokesperson Shivaray Kulkarni said it was the Sena that had to carry the blame. “When Devendra Fadnavis took the oath of office on Saturday, the party was jubilant. The BJP, with help of Ajit Pawar NCP and independents, had the required numbers to form the government. But when he walked out from the government for whatever reasons, BJP made it clear it could not form the government. So, why blame anybody at the Centre or state? Secondly, from the beginning we have maintained that mandate was for BJP and Sena. It was Sena which broke the alliance. So, why would our workers blame BJP leaders,” he said.