Eknath Khadse's navratri 'beat' for BJP?
It is being said that the veteran could join the NCP during the auspicious period; BJP firm that he will not do so
Speculations are rife that estranged Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran Eknath Khadse, will dump the saffron outfit during the auspicious period of Navratri and join the state's ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). But the BJP is hopeful of retaining the leader who has been loyal to it through thick and thin.
Many supporters of Khadse, who has been associated with the BJP (and erstwhile Jan Sangh) for several decades, said that they have made up their mind to join the NCP following indications that their leader too would defect. Khadse wasn't available for comment.
Nothing official from NCP
According to the grapevine, Khadse is interested in holding the charge of agriculture or home minister in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. But since the agriculture department is with the Shiv Sena, the NCP will have to exchange it for some other department, or give Khadse home department, now held by the party. However, NCP hasn't made an official comment in Khadse's issue, though some leaders have said the BJP stalwart was most welcome in their fold.
Former number two minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government, Khadse was asked to quit in 2016 following allegations of corruption which he has denied vehemently. He neither got back to the Mantralaya nor was given an Assembly poll ticket last year. The party replaced Khadse with daughter Rohini as the party candidate in Muktainagar, but lost the seat it had won consecutively in several elections.
However, Khadse's daughter-in-law Raksha won the Lok Sabha seat for the BJP six month before her (Rohini's) Assembly loss, which was solely blamed on the family's detractors in the BJP. Later, Khadse was ignored for the Rajya Sabha and denied positions in the party organisation.
Khadse blames Fadnavis
Khadse has consistently alleged a conspiracy to end his political career. He holds ex-CM Fadnavis and his supporters responsible for engineering his downfall. Of late, the north Maharashtra leader has launched a frontal attack on Fadnavis, blaming the ex-CM for whatever happened to him since his ouster from the cabinet and losing power in the state despite winning maximum seats.
Last week Khadse attended the BJP's newly constituted meeting in Mumbai. The BJP state president Chandrakant Patil requested him to avoid making statements against the party before the media and urged him to stay with the party.
Patil told media persons in Kolhapur on Thursday that Khadse would not do anything that harms the party's prospects. "He is one of the finest and mature politicians and also our senior leader. I have been talking to him for the past five years. Media is discussing him, but I am sure he will not quit the BJP. His resentment will be addressed in two-three weeks," he said.
On Tuesday, Fadnavis said in Khadse's home district Jalgaon that every BJP worker expected the veteran leader to be associated with the party. "Khadse will not quit the BJP because he understands politics very well," he said while inaugurating a hospital in Amalner. As expected, Khadse skipped the event, but his daughter-in-law and supporters accompanied Fadnavis.
Will MP daughter-in-law too defect?
Amid the possibility of Khadse's defection, his two-term MP daughter-in-law Raksha, 33, finds herself in a peculiar situation. After her husband's tragic death, she took up active politics seven years ago. She won two successive Lok Sabha elections from Raver constituency. She has earned the reputation of being a hard-working and no-nonsense lawmaker. The BJP's senior leaders see her as a promising young leader. A source said if Khadse is serious about switching over, he would also want Raksha to join him. Some leaders foresee a family feud over the matter if the MP isn't willing. However, a majority of leaders feel that winning the next elections without the father-in-law's socio-political influence will be a difficult task for Raksha.
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