State revenue minister and senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse, currently in hot soup over allegations of corruption, is putting pressure on chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the party to not take any action against him. A group of elected representatives of the BJP, including Jalgaon MP AT Patil and three legislators from the area, called on state party president Raosaheb Danve in Mumbai and expressed discontent over Khadse being isolated within the party.
Khadse, who skipped the state cabinet meeting on Tuesday, continued to stay in his constituency in Jalgaon district in north Maharashtra on Wednesday. He spent most of his day meeting supporters and discussing the situation. This led to hectic political activity in Jalgaon with Khadse supporters getting aggressive and issuing a veiled threat to the party against taking any action against him.
While Fadnavis and Danve have been maintaining the party is with Khadse, other party leaders have chosen not to defend the beleaguered minister. BJP chief Amit Shah told the media that Fadnavis has been dealing with the issue and will decide what to do about it.
Danve insisted the delegation met him to discuss organisational issues and it had nothing to do with the controversies related to Khadse. “It is unfortunate to assume that the party is being pressurised. I want to reiterate the party stands firmly behind Khadse,” he said.
In Jalgaon, 17 BJP corporators from the local civic body threatened to quit if the party did not stand by their leader. A delegation of ally Republican Party of India, too, sat on a hunger strike to support Khadse. At some places, effigies of Aam Aadmi Party leaders were burnt ‘for levelling baseless allegations’ against Khadse.
Party sources said Fadnavis and the BJP are in a dilemma over the action to be taken against Khadse. A powerful BJP leader from North Maharashtra, Khadse wields clout in Jalgaon and the surrounding area. He is also a prominent leader from the Leva Patil community, which has influenced the politics in the region. After the 2014 assembly elections, he was seen as a frontrunner for the chief minister’s post, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah picked Fadnavis for the job. Even then, Khadse supporters in north Maharashtra had staged demonstrations and expressed their unhappiness. To pacify him, he was given the revenue portfolio along with nine other departments. He is seen as the second-in-command in the state cabinet after Fadnavis. As such, the party leadership is being cautious while dealing with him. Sources said Fadnavis may meet the party leadership on the issue.