MUMBAI: A day after the ouster of one of its seniormost ministers, Eknath Khadse, the BJP adopted a cautious stance in a bid to draw the curtains on the resignation drama and avoid any political fallout from it.
Party president Amit Shah, who was in Pune for a function skipped making any reference to Khadse’s ouster, even as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis gave the Pune event a miss to attend a programme at Yavatmal, apparently to deflect attention from the issue.
At his erstwhile official residence, Ramtek in Malabar Hill, Khadse spent the day meeting a steady stream of supporters from his home turf in Jalgaon, even as he shunned meeting the media. “I have made my position clear at the press conference on Saturday, I have nothing more to say to the media. Everything has already been said and done by the media,” Khadse told HT.
Behind the scenes, however, sources said that legislators from the Khadse camp had been told by the state leadership to fall in line. North Maharashtra, Khadse’s home turf, is also likely to get an additional portfolio in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle to placate legislators from the region. “There had been discontent with Khadse’s style of functioning and his style of grabbing all important positions for his family members and hence party does not expect major internal strife over the resignation even on his home turf,” said a senior BJP leader.
On Sunday, the only visible sign of discontent if any were reports of 14 corporators from the Jalgaon civic body offering their resignations to protest against Khadse ouster.
But, in the long run, putting aside the Khadse episode is easier said than done for the state party unit. For starters, he was one of the few ministers in the Fadnavis cabinet with prior administrative, political and legislature experience.
“The biggest challenge for the CM, who has clearly gained ground by Khadse’s dismissal, is to ensure that his team performs even as it steers clear of controversies and graft charges. But, barring a couple of ministers, there is no one with administrative experience,” admitted a BJP state minister. “Even finding the right person for a portfolio like revenue is tough for the party,” he said.
Khadse’s ouster puts finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar in the number 2 position in the state cabinet and the party. He along with co-operation minister Chandrakant Patil and water resources minister Girish Mahajan are being considered for the revenue minister portfolio. There are eight other portfolios up for grabs with Khadse’s resignation including agriculture.
While Fadnavis may prefer Mahajan for the job, the central party leadership may chose Mungantiwar or Patil for this important portfolio. It is said that Mungantiwar is not too keen on the job even as Mahajan is not considered up to mark for this responsibility and Patil lacks experience.
For now, all eyes in the party are on the upcoming cabinet reshuffle slated this month. The reshuffle will give an indication of whether Chief Minister has a free hand in selecting his team and has indeed cemented his position in Maharashtra or whether the central leadership has tightened its hold on the state.