Former Bharatiya Janata Party veteran Eknath Khadse has now been focusing on expanding the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) presence in his home district Jalgaon. Nearly 250 supporters of former minister Girish Mahajan, who is a close confidante of former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, from his home turf Jamner has quit BJP to join NCP.
Khadse had time and again complained about how Mahajan was responsible for sidelining him in the party organisation. However, with blessings from Fadnavis, Mahajan ruled the district, especially after Khadse resigned in 2016 in the wake of corruption charges. Khadse had alleged that Fadnavis had ruined his political career and had also held Mahajan responsible for denying him an assembly ticket. He also blamed the latter for the defeat of his daughter Rohini from Muktainagar in the last assembly election.
Khadse indicated that the entry of Mahajan’s 250 supporters in NCP was just the beginning and said that several BJP leaders and rank and file will quit the party to join him. Jalgaon BJP insiders are worried about Khadse’s strategy to teach a lesson to Mahajan and others. They believe that the Other Backward Class (OBC) leader with such a mass following and clout will be able do it in the days to come.
On Monday, over 60 BJP workers from Raver assembly segment in Jalgaon district joined NCP in Khadse’s presence. On the occasion of Khadse’s formal entry in the NCP, its national party chief Sharad Pawar had said that the former BJP veteran has assured to change the political arithmetics in Jalgaon and in north Maharashtra within a year.
Pawar and state NCP chief Jayant Patil have hinted that Khadse has been given a free hand to increase the party’s presence to checkmate BJP ahead of the ensuing civic and local body elections and, later, in the run up to the Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
Meanwhile, 257 of the total 310 poll booth chiefs of the BJP revolted in Shrirampur tehsil in Ahmednagar and joined NCP. Higher and Technical Education Minister and NCP leader Prajakt Tanpure said many BJP leaders, who are angry with the leadership, have been in NCP’s contact and they will soon join the party.