Eknath Khadse
Eknath Khadse

Mumbai: With just two lines, long-sulking BJP leader Eknath Khadse finally delivered a jolt to his party by deciding to call it a day, resigning from his primary membership of the party and other posts on Wednesday. Setting to rest all speculation, he announced he would be joining the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to start a new innings. State NCP chief Jayant Patil announced Khadse would be welcomed into the party on Friday and clarified that there were no conditions on his entry.

His two-line resignation letter to Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil said, “I have decided to resign from the BJP for personal reasons.”

Khadse blamed former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, saying, “I’m upset with Devendra Fadnavis but have no complaints with the central leadership.’’ He made it clear that he alone was joining the NCP and said his daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse, who is a BJP MP, had not resigned and would make her own decision.

"Fadnavis instructed police to register FIR against me on false allegations of harassment by a woman. The court has set me free. Corruption inquiries were initiated against me, from which I emerged clean. I have suffered a lot in the BJP," Khadse claimed.

"My family and I have been humiliated for four years. I had worked hard to build up the party in the state for 40 years and this is what I had to undergo," he added.

"Devendra Fadnavis destroyed my life. I spent four years in a state of mental tension. I repeatedly said in my speeches that you were forcing me out of the party. I feel sad about quitting the BJP but I had no choice. There were attempts to frame me on false charges of rape," said Khadse said.

He went on to add, “The mental agony caused by Fadnavis was unbearable. Often, I felt death was better than such humiliation. All the charges against me were fabricated.”

After Khadse resigned reluctantly as revenue minister amid corruption charges in 2016, he was denied a ticket twice; once in the 2019 assembly election and later, in the council poll. He had stepped up his attacks against Fadnavis, squarely holding him responsible for ruining his political prospects.

On Monday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had said that Khadse, as the leader of the opposition, had played a huge role in building the BJP in Maharashtra. "He would criticise us and we would take note of it," Pawar added.

He had further said, Khadse would be justified in quitting the BJP. "One is bound to feel disturbed if his contribution and hard work are not taken note of. He may wonder why he shouldn't shift to a party which appreciates his work," Pawar had noted.

In his reaction, Maharashtra CM and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray took a dig at the BJP and said that the party should introspect on why its leaders were quitting. “The BJP needs to think about why those leaders who have been in the party from the start are quitting. They are the ones who worked for the party when it was not in power. First, we left them, then the Akalis left and now, people from their own party are leaving. The BJP needs to think now why this is happening,” he opined.

BJP loss is NCP gain

The BJP is struggling to accept Khadse’s decision. Party-insiders admit that they have lost an OBC face and replacing him in the near future will be difficult.

However, the NCP, which is making every effort to spread its wings in Maharashtra, sees in Khadse a leader who will not only help the party realise its objective in north Maharashtra but across the state. The NCP has been facing strong criticism for being a Maratha and western Maharashtra-centric party but with Khadse’s entry, the party hopes to reach out to the OBCs and other sections of the society.

Further, the NCP can pit Khadse against Fadnavis, who has been at the forefront of attacks on the party and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. The NCP has not forgotten how Fadnavis had encouraged disgruntled NCP leaders to join the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha and assembly elections last year.

Moreover, Khadse could lure other BJP MPs and legislators who are also reportedly unhappy over Fadnavis’s style of functioning. State NCP chief Jayant Patil said, about 10 to 12 BJP legislators were in touch with the NCP and it would take a call on accommodating them in the party fold.

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