Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis cannot escape blame for the resignation of Eknath Khadse from the BJP. The OBC face of the party for over four decades, who was an aspirant for the chief minister’s post till the party leadership threw its weight behind Fadnavis, had reason to feel humiliated at the shabby treatment meted to him. That Khadse as revenue minister in the Fadnavis government was embroiled in an unseemly controversy over the purchase of an industrial plot in Pune by his family members, allegedly at a below-market price, had led to his resignation.
To this day, it is unclear whether he was given a clean chit by an inquiry that followed, though Khadse maintains he was absolved of wrongdoing. Indeed, he further hints that an attempt was also made to foist a criminal case against him on the false charge of assaulting a woman. Whether or not Fadnavis was behind the campaign to target his senior party colleague, especially because the latter had made no attempt to hide his frustration at the loss of chief ministerial 'gaddi', is hard to tell.
In any case, despite Khadse’s repeated pleas to the party leadership to end his isolation and to restore his public image, the central BJP leadership paid no heed. It appeared to be in thrall of its hand-picked man for Maharashtra, though Fadnavis displayed a streak of Brahminical arrogance and stand-offishness in dealing with not only Khadse, a far senior leader of the party than him, but with the then ally, the Shiv Sena as well. Proximity to the Nagpur establishment of the RSS and to the Modi-Shah duo at the Centre had made Fadnavis oblivious to the fact that a good leader has the onerous task of carrying his colleagues, whether senior or junior, with him. Successful politics, above all, entails a collective, cooperative effort and power-sharing.
On his part, Khadse not only made no effort to accord due respect to Chief Minister Fadnavis but, worse, he sought to undermine his authority. Besides, the purchase of the MIDC plot in Pune at a highly depressed price did suggest some hanky-panky. The charge of wrongdoing was first aired publicly by a private citizen who claimed to have been wrongly implicated previously by Khadse in a land-related case. Given the permissive political culture in Maharashtra, where Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray declares assets worth over Rs 140 crore without having worked for a living for a day, and where his young minister-son, Aaditya, declares assets over Rs 20 crore without even having held a paying job, the charge against Khadse was actually akin to a parking ticket.
Probably, he did misuse his ministerial position to get the piece of land at a below-market price but in relative terms, when Ashok Chavan and other carpetbaggers people the higher echelons of the Maharashtra politics, Khadse’s marginalisation by the Fadnavis-led Maharashtra BJP was uncalled for. Lest this be seen as a rationalisation of corrupt practices, it should be noted that absolute honesty in politics has always been a pipe-dream, good to aspire to but impossible to attain. Mahatma Gandhi threatened to leave the Congress Party in disgust, following reports of rampant corruption by Congress ministers in the provincial ministries formed after the implementation of the Government of India Act, 1935.
Fadnavis ought to have reached out to Khadse, given that the latter had been an important leader of the OBCs in a party which had a pro-upper caste tilt. Now the BJP’s loss is most likely the NCP’s gain. How long will Khadse’s daughter, a sitting BJP member of the Lok Sabha, stay with the party is not clear. May be in order to retain her LS seat she will sit out the present term before following her father into the NCP. Fadnavis, no doubt now the face of the Maharashtra BJP, is still to develop human relations skills. Sly and secretive moves to marginalise rivals can prove counter-productive.
Cat-and-mouse game over Republic TV
The Centre and the Maharashtra government seem to be playing a cat-and-mouse game over Republic TV promoter and chief anchor, Arnab Goswami. The latter is out to fix him by whatever means possible, while the former wants to protect him at all costs. In the process, the credibility of state institutions such as Mumbai Police and the CBI gets severely mauled.
After an FIR against the alleged fraud in measuring Television Rating Points was filed in Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh government promptly transferred the case to the CBI. Suspecting this to be a move to transfer the case in Mumbai against the Republic TV to the CBI, the Maharashtra Government lost no time in withdrawing the general consent given to the premier investigating agency to take over cases on its own. Still, the CBI, relying on a loophole, could frustrate the Maharashtra move. Should a fresh FIR for the alleged TRP scam be registered in yet another state, it will be hard to stop the CBI from taking over the case filed in multiple states.
To his credit, Goswami seems to have endeared himself to the senior BJP leadership so much so rival TV anchors vying for blessings of the same ruling dispensation have taken to target him most viciously. Maybe the BJP leadership is aware of Arnab’s traducers, who change colours with the change in the ruling regime. Having once chosen the BJP, he has stuck on with the party without in any way exploiting his proximity for lobbying for shady business interests.