Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and one of the tallest OBC leaders in the State, Eknath Khadse, on Wednesday resigned from the party, and said that he would be joining the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Friday.
Blaming former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for his humiliation within the party as well as in public life, Mr. Khadse (68) said that he had no complaints against the rest of the BJP leadership. “I was harassed by cases, including those of outraging the modesty of a woman and land grabbing. I have come out clean in every case. But the trauma I had suffered for four years was tremendous. Mr. Fadnavis destroyed my life,” Mr. Khadse, who was number two in the 2014 State Cabinet, said.
The veteran BJP leader belongs to the first generation of ‘bahujan’ BJP leaders of late Gopinath Munde and late Pandurang Fundkar who did the ground work in 80s and 90s to expand the party.
Mr. Khadse said that he would not have thought of quitting the party which he had helped grow in Maharashtra for 40 years. “I feel sad about quitting the party but I am left with no choice. I am certain that until Mr. Fadnavis is with the BJP, I will not get justice within. Therefore, I have decided to part ways,” he said.
After being denied the CM’s post in 2014 by the BJP’s Central leadership, Mr. Khadse was always painted as a sulking figure who had to work under Mr. Fadnavis, a junior to him within the party ranks. He had openly said that the BJP should have chosen a ‘bahujan’ face as Maharashtra CM instead of Mr. Fadnavis.
“I knew the party discipline and how the government worked. If Mr. Fadnavis was the CM, then I had to work under him and I was doing so. But it seemed he always felt threatened by my presence. I was spied upon, complaints were filed against me, inquiries were set up, and I was asked to resign,” he said.
Mr. Khadse’s decision comes after months of speculation and despite efforts by the BJP State leadership to stop him from switching sides. State BJP president Chandrakant Patil said, “We tried our best to stop him. We hoped that he would not quit, despite being angry on certain issues. We tried to solve them. We wish him to do good work in his new party.”
Earlier in the day, Maharashtra NCP president and Irrigation Minister Jayant Patil announced that that Mr. Khadse had resigned from the BJP and would be joining the NCP on Friday.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray welcomed the decision of Mr. Khadse to join the NCP and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. “The BJP should analyse as to why its base is being dismantled while it is conquering new heights,” Mr. Thackeray said.
Mr. Khadse, an OBC leader from north Maharashtra, enjoys dominance in his native Jalgaon district and also in different constituencies in the region. His daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse is a BJP Lok Sabha MP from Raver constituency.