Don't force me to quit, Eknath Khadse warns BJP

Updated: Jan 26, 2018, 11:16 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

The senior leader is upset about being left out in the cold by the Fadnavis cabinet because of corruption charges; he has also received an offer to jump ship to Congress

Eknath Khadse, former revenue minister
Eknath Khadse, former revenue minister

Estranged BJP leader Eknath Khadse has issued an ultimatum to the party, asking it not to force him to quit. The former minister, who quit in view of corruption charges in 2016, is angry that he has not been redrafted in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet even as general elections are approaching. Speaking at a public function in Raver in his fiefdom, Jalgaon district, Khadse challenged the Fadnavis government to prove to the people that he was corrupt. "I want an answer now. I have no desire to quit the party, but I'm being pushed out. Don't force me to quit," he said.

Plenty of takers
Khadse's ultimatum came in the presence of ex-CM and state Congress president Ashok Chavan. It was an-all party felicitation of a local leader, who turned 60 yesterday. Besides Chavan, former speaker and NCP leader Arun Gujarati, ex-MP Ishwarlal Jain, Congress MLC Bhai Jagtap, BJP MLA Haribhau Jawale, and Khadse's daughter-in-law and BJP MP Raksha Khadse shared the dais with him. Chavan promptly invited Khadse to the Congress fold. "Please do not wait to be forced out. You decide, we are ready for you," he said.

Earlier, NCP leaders had openly offered Khadse to join their party after visiting his home in Muktainagar in Jalgaon, but the BJP leader refused. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut had publicly said that Khadse was warming up to NCP. Khadse is among senior leaders credited for the rise of BJP in north Maharashtra, and was tipped as one of the favourites for chief minister in 2014. After Fadnavis was raised to the CM's position, Khadse was his number two.

Why is Khadse angry?
Khadse will not be able to make a comeback into the council of ministers because the Bombay High Court is hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against him. Khadse was asked to quit in June 2016 in view of corruption charges. He was accused of facilitating the purchase of government land for his family when he was the revenue minister. He was also accused of having telephonic conversations with fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim, but this charge has fizzled out. An inquiry commission was constituted under Justice D S Zoting, to probe the land purchase charge. The commission has submitted its report, but the government hasn't made it public or acted upon it.

CM Fadnavis told the Assembly last December that the court refused to take cognisance of the Zoting committee's report, and directed the state to file an FIR against Khadse. The case is with the ACB. As long as the high court is hearing the case, reinstating Khadse in the Cabinet would show the government poor light.

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