Eknath Khadse until recently was seen as one of the most aggressive Opposition leaders in the history of Maharashtra assembly. During his tenure as the Opposition leader, Khadse exposed several corruption cases, and took a strong stand against the Congress-NCP over Adarsh and irrigation scams.
Ironically, on Saturday he joined the list of politicians who were forced to quit over graft charges.
Khadse’s forced resignation will be particularly hard for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which lost a frontline leader in the state who was also its Other Backward Class face after the death of Gopinath Munde. In fact, Khadse’s meteoric rise in politics can largely be attributed to Munde and late Pramod Mahajan.
The 63-year-old veteran belongs to the Leva Patil community, which has a strong presence in north Maharashtra. The community used to once support Congress but thanks to Khadse, north Maharashtra is BJP’s stronghold today.
Also, in the current assembly, Khadse enjoys the support of about a dozen legislators.
Khadse started his political career as sarpanch or the elected head of a village council in 1987, graduating to the zilla parishad. He was first elected to Maharashtra assembly from Muktainagar (originally called Aidalabad but he got it renamed) constituency. He has been elected from this constituency for six terms including the 2014 elections.
Following BJP’s victory in 2014 assembly elections, Khadse emerged as a top contender for the chief minister’s post but Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah preferred Devendra Fadnavis instead.
Due to his influence, however, Khadse was given the significant revenue portfolio along with nine other departments. He was considered No 2 in the state cabinet after CM Fadnavis, who was the then state BJP president.
Khadse is part of the core committee of top BJP leaders, including CM Devendra Fadnavis, state BJP president Raosaheb Danve and ministers Sudhir Mungantiwar, Vinod Tawde and Pankaja Munde, who take all major party related decisions.
He was also a minister in the Sena-BJP government between 1995 and 1999, handling finance, irrigation and higher education departments.