Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis stayed away from a rally addressed by BJP president Amit Shah in Pune on Sunday, spurring speculations that he was deliberately avoiding public appearances in the aftermath of revenue minister Eknath Khadse’s resignation.
Khadse had resigned on Saturday over charges of corruption in a Pune land deal and alleged phone calls to underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
The event – a youth rally organised to promote the Narendra Modi government’s skill development scheme – was planned over two months ago, and Fadnavis had confirmed his attendance back then.
According to sources, the party feared that the chief minister’s presence would have shifted the focus of the function from the Centre’s welfare measures. Besides, a public appearance like this would have given the media an opportunity to grill him over the Khadse controversy.
Reports from the BJP camp suggested that the revenue minister was asked to resign a day before the Pune rally to prevent embarrassment to the party leadership.
The organisers reportedly made seating arrangements for Fadnavis and other ministers, which had to be changed at the last moment. The chief minister, instead, went for a tour to Yavatmal in the Vidarbha region – where he spent about half a day.
Shah, for his part, refrained from commenting on the political situation in Maharashtra or Khadse’s resignation. Instead, he apprised the youth of various schemes launched by Modi government to fight unemployment.
Maharashtra party president Raosaheb Danve, who also spoke at the event, compared the performance of the Modi government with that of the previous UPA government.
Girish Bapat was the only state minister to attend the function.