The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was left red-faced in Maharashtra when its MLA and former minister Eknath Khadse publicly targeted the Devendra Fadnavis government, questioning the policies in the cooperatives sector, which is the backbone of the state’s rural economy.
The moment of embarrassment for the BJP came on the penultimate day of the monsoon session of the state legislature. The Chief Minister was not present when Khadse made his remarks. Khadse, once the number two in the Maharashtra government, had stepped down in June following accusations of impropriety and wrongdoing.
On Friday evening, when the government reintroduced the contentious Bill that allows it to bar directors of mismanaged district cooperative banks from standing for re-election in cooperative institutions, it was Khadse who cornered the government the most.
“How many new cooperative institutions has the government promoted over the past two years? In fact, existing cooperative institutions are closing down,” said Khadse, alleging that the policies of the government were responsible for it.
Joining the Opposition, which has dubbed the reintroduction of the Bill as being a purely political move, Khadse said the ruling benches must consider the fact that urban and district cooperative banks controlled by those “close to the ruling side”, who have provided service to the sector, would be adversely impacted by Bill’s provisions.
Incidentally, Khadse is among the few BJP leaders in Maharashtra who have interests in the district cooperative banks sector.
While the Cabinet had originally cleared the Bill while he was still minister, he had made his objection known by remaining absent for the Cabinet meeting where it was approved.
While the provisions under the Bill apply to all banks whose board of directors were dissolved in line with RBI directions and are facing inquiry for mismanagement of funds and illegal transactions over the last ten years, Khadse later sought amendments in the Bill for excluding those directors who had opposed decisions that led to such mismanagement.
Cooperatives Minister Subhash Deshmukh later agreed to dilute the Bill’s provisions. The House eventually cleared it with a modification which says that directors who have formally opposed such decisions won’t be subjected to such prohibition.
Sources said that Khadse’s offensive was aimed at the Chief Minister and Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil, who was previously holding the Cooperatives portfolio.