The options are simple — either offer an escape route that Ajit Pawar took or subject him to legal battles like Ashok Chavan
Unavoidable. That’s how Eknath Khadse’s resignation from the Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet is described. The circumstances that led to his sacking were being created by Khadse himself in the past several months.
When the demand for his resignation reached a crescendo, the BJP’s independent network that reports to the Delhi bosses swung into action. He was examined for the charges that everyone except Khadse found very difficult to defend.
Khadse’s removal should be seen as the BJP’s masterstroke.
The whistle-blowers and the opposition did not expect such a stern action because the BJP had let some ‘tainted’ ministers from Maharashtra and other states go unscathed. What was expected that, at the most, Khadse would be relieved of revenue department. But BJP president Amit Shah, who monitors Maharashtra council of ministers very keenly, thought otherwise.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approval, he made Khadse quit as early as possible. Most importantly, he ensured that Fadnavis was not projected as a villain de piece. He left enough scope to understand that the CM and other seniors like Nitin Gadkari were kept in the loop.
But it is also true that the Khadse camp continues to blame Fadnavis in the ouster. The blind followers tend to do so. We have had a similar instance in which Ashok Chavan was asked to go in the Adarsh scam. The ex-CM got flats for his close relatives in the tower, while Khadse is accused of a quid pro quo to get his family a hefty compensation for the government land that they have ‘illegally’ bought from a private owner. A parallel should be drawn between Chavan and Khadse’s sacking because of their political significance.
The only difference between them is that Chavan quit immediately, while Khadse took almost a month.
Will Khadse make it?
A wily Prithviraj Chavan, who took over from Ashok, saw to it that his predecessor went through legal hurdles and did not shoot immediately into prominence. He appointed a Commission of Inquires, which took a couple of years to complete the probe. Prithviraj was painted a villain then, now it’s the turn of Fadnavis.
The accusers in both cases are from the affected camps.
The probe did indict Ashok Chavan in quid pro quo issues, but Prithviraj did not accept the commission’s report.
The then governor denied the CBI permission to prosecute Ashok Chavan, the decision which the BJP reversed last year. Ashok was made state Congress chief after the party’s humiliating defeat under Prithviraj. So, one wonders what the BJP will have in store for Khadse. Will it ensure safe passage for him just the way the NCP had done in Ajit Pawar’s resignation? Or will he face legal battles and be subjected to a long wait?
Perched on a moral ground, Khadse asked the CM to probe him. Fadnavis has decided to appoint a retired high court judge to do the job. Khadse’s fate depends on the nature of the inquiry and terms of references given to investigators who will summon the leader who rated himself better than Fadnavis as the CM candidate.
Khadse’s supporters have been exerting pressure in his fiefdom Jalgaon district by threatening to quit their elected offices. But we are told the BJP has an alternative leadership to take command of that particular region.
A senior leader from that region is already in the Cabinet, and one more senior leader is expected to be inducted when the council of ministers is expanded later this month.
Wake up call
The grapevine is that the ministers who faced corruption charges in the past continue to be under scrutiny by the BJP insiders, the opposition, civil activists and ally Shiv Sena that destroyed Khadse’s defence in the land deal.
The BJP’s strong signal should make the sitting ministers and those who get inducted soon more careful and transparent in conducting their official and personal businesses.
Fadnavis, now put in absolute command of government and party affairs, cannot afford to carry any longer rotten mangoes in his basket.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore.Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org