In what will go down as one of the most longest drawn out resignation drama, Eknath Khadse has finally resigned from the BJP and is prepping up for a cosy retirement with the Sharad Pawar-led NCP.
Ever since Khadse was overlooked for Maharashtra’s top job in 2014, he has perpetually been on the verge of resigning from BJP. Riding high on the Modi wave, BJP stormed to power in Maharashtra in 2014, with Khadse expected to land the job of Maharashtra Chief Minister. BJP instead went for a new face and appointed the young Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra which permanently fractured Khadse’s relationship with the party.
The state BJP had long been a junior brother to the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and hence the question of a BJP CM never cropped up before the advent of the Modi government. Despite being a junior partner, Gopinath Munde, Nitin Gadkari and Eknath Khadse shone and it was considered a given that if the opportunity arises, the CM post would be given to either of three.
Unfortunately, Gopinath Munde passed away just before the Maharashtra elections while Nitin Gadkari was needed at the Centre and hence shifted base to Delhi, which left Khadse as the prime contender for Maharashtra’s top job. However, Khadse met the same fate as of Anil Vij in Haryana and Arjun Munda in Jharkhand as he was overlooked for Devendra Fadnavis which in hindsight, turned out to be a fantastic decision for the BJP and Maharashtra.
Khadse had to settle for a cabinet position as the Revenue Minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government but had to resign after allegation of graft spruced up in 2016. It was alleged that in an apparent misuse of his office, Khadse had allotted MIDC land to his wife and son-in-law. Since then, he has slipped into political oblivion.
Owing to the BJP’s policy of zero tolerance for corruption, Khadse along with a host of senior leaders like Vinod Tawde was denied a ticket to contest the 2019 Maharashtra elections. In a bid of placate him, the BJP fielded his daughter, Rohini Khadse from Muktainagar — a seat previously held by her father, however, Rohini lost the elections by a little over 3,000 votes to an independent candidate. Reportedly, Eknath Khadse had blamed internal sabotage for Rohini’s loss.
Khadse after the 2019 elections, expected to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha or legislative council or the governor, but nothing came by which prompted him to resign.
“When I was not considered for any of these, it was clear that I was not required in the party,” said a sulking Khadse.
Khadse who has alleged that Fadnavis along with Girish Mahajan drafted a strategy to destroy his political career is known to have connections cutting across political lines and hence his move to the NCP comes as no surprise.
“Khadse will join NCP in presence of Sharad Pawar along with few other BJP functionaries from North Maharashtra,” said state NCP President Jayant Patil.
Khadse has now landed on the feet of Sharad Pawar to save his political career, but in the eventuality of the BJP coming back to power in Maharashtra which remains a high possibility, Khadse will yet again find himself at the crossroads. Such are the dynamics of the three party alliance that it is near impossible for the NCP to accommodate Khadse in the state cabinet without starting an internal rebellion. It seems that Khadse will have to suffice with the post of Member of Legislative Council from the NCP which will mark a huge fall from grace for one of the tallest leaders of Maharashtra.