Senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse’s hopes to stage a comeback in the Maharashtra government appears to be shelved forever after he failed to make it to the cabinet even as 12 new faces were inducted on Sunday.
The former BJP minister expressed his disappointment questioning the functioning of the party and those at the helm. “It is unfortunate. The Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil is being made the minister. But senior BJP leaders who have successfully contested elections for three to four terms have been ignored. How will they feel for being completely ignored?”
Although Khadse did not name chief minister Devendra Fadnavis or any organisation leader at the Centre, he made it clear that BJP’s electoral success was an outcome of hard work and dedication of those like him for last forty years.
“There are many leaders coming from Congress and NCP who are becoming ministers in the BJP government. But those who served the BJP for decades sincerely and brought electoral results are being sidelined,” he asserted. “It’s not about me. In any case, I am not interested. What I am driving at is there are people who served this party. Their work should be honoured.”
In June 2016, Khadse, who held important portfolios like revenue and agriculture had to resign following charges of corruption in Pune land deal. An inquiry commission was set up under retired justice Dinkar Zhoting to probe the matter. The commission submitted its report to the government. But there was a PIL in court whose verdict is still awaited.
A senior cabinet minister said, “Khadse was trying hard to come back in the cabinet. He felt his reinstatement would help to absolve him of the corruption stigma. He had indicated that he wished to come in the cabinet knowing this tenure was shortlived — up to October 2019.”
Khadse’s anger and disappointment have stemmed from multiple factors. Since 2016, his political downfall began. Once he was removed from the cabinet, his political hold in home turf Jalgaon in North Maharashtra was also challenged.
The rise of the cabinet minister for water resources Girish Mahajan as OBC leader in North Maharashtra came as a suitable replacement to Khadse’s political upmanship in the region. Mahajan who is perceived as the blue-eyed boy of Fadnavis has proved his mettle by successfully steering many a crisis in the last five years in the state.
According to the minister, “The decision not to reinstate Khadse in the cabinet was taken by the central leadership. The state leaders had no say in the matter.” Among the reasons cited for Centre’s adamant stand includes his periodical outburst against the party’s policies and decision both in state assembly and public. The leaders at the Centre also took strong objections to his anti-CM sentiments voiced in public forum.
However, Khadse has maintained he would continue to remain and work in BJP. After all, the ministers have only three months’ time and the elections will be in September-October.