'Have a lion's share in BJP's 2014 state win'
Denied ticket after 25 years as MLA, Eknath Khadse refuses to go gently into the night
A standout feature about the BJP in this election is the clinical axing of several veterans who were not so long ago considered peers or even seniors to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The biggest among them is Eknath Khadse.
Though the nomination of his daughter Rohini Khadse Khewalkar has softened the blow, Khadse makes no bones that there is a well-laid plan to oust him from state politics. Denied a ticket for the Muktainagar constituency he has represented six times over the last 25 years, the former revenue minister said he had an idea of what was coming but refuses to fade away thanks to the clout he still enjoys with the BJP cadre. The one-time firebrand opposition leader said in a no-holds-barred interview that the tiger in him was still zinda and roaming free in the jungles and will not be scared of rats.
How are you doing after recent events that changed your role in state politics?
Nothing has changed. I have experienced ups and downs all my life. Frustration, anger and disappointment after such instances are momentary. I'm a BJP worker who acts in accordance with the party's policy. I'm still the same Eknath Khadse who worked hard for the party's progress and growth.
You aren't party's candidate. Do you still feel responsible for the constituency?
My responsibility has increased manifold. Some people thought I would be a weak candidate if fielded for the seventh time. But the dissent (among his supporters) has been replaced with a sense of competition. We are all working for registering a huge victory for Rohini.
Do you suspect a plan behind relegating you to the margdarshak mandal?
I have always been an adviser and ran the party along with other seniors. The phrase margdarshak mandal wasn't popular in the BJP then. We had leaders like Pramod Mahajan who we called headmaster, Gopinath Munde, Padurang Fundkar, NS Farande and many others. The students we tutored then have now become professors. Times change. Our students don't need my advice and instead they are now teaching politics to seniors. This is like the Mahabharat, where disciples become wiser than the gurus. I will not say very definitely that my ouster was engineered, but I got an idea of what might be coming up. The CM had a meeting with me during the last legislative session. He told me the BJP will offer me a new role — a governor of some state. I asked why? The gubernatorial position outside your state means the end of the road in politics. I asked myself what next? The CM said my daughter would replace me as a candidate, but I said I haven't asked for her candidature. You know what happened next.
Any specific reason behind the move?
I have always spoken my mind and never ever thought of consequences. I have always represented people's causes with all my political strength and energy. I took similar stands inside and outside the legislature. And that's why I enjoy a huge following in Maharashtra. People called me from various places to sympathise with me when I was denied a ticket. I was among the leaders who built the BJP brick by brick over 40 years. I think I also have a lion's share in 2014 victory in Maharashtra. You should see my last speech in the legislature. The 12 lakh views and the comments supporting my stand speak volumes of Khadse as a person and leader.
You rocked the legislature when in Opposition. You wouldn't be an MLA or minister in the future. Is Mr Khadse a toothless tiger now?
Not at all! Tiger zinda hai, and aur jungle me raj kar raha hai. I'm not scared of rats and foxes because I'm a born tiger. I can deal with any situation bravely and without compromise. I don't really need political positions to work for the people. I can do it through Rohini (daughter) and Raksha (his daughter-in-law, who is a Lok Sabha MP).
Why is it that, while loyalists are out, turncoats are filling the BJP ranks?
It happens. Most people who came in were with us between 1995 and 1999. They went to the ruling parties (Congress, NCP) and now they are back with BJP, which is in power. They think the BJP will not be out of power for many years to come. I'm also confident that the BJP will get a simple majority on its own because the opposition is so weak. When I review speeches I have made in the Assembly, I realise what a strong opposition could do to put the government on tenterhooks. At national level, the BJP will keep going from strong to strength as long as Narendra Modi leads it.
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