Sulking Eknath Khadse meets Sharad Pawar, triggers talk of move to NCP
The two held a closed-door meeting for around half-an-hour at Pawar’s residence. It is not clear what transpired at the meeting, but it has raised speculation that Khadse is considering NCP as an alternative.Updated: Dec 10, 2019 06:17 IST
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Eknath Khadse, who has been unhappy with the party’s leadership for quite some time, on Monday met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar in Delhi.
The two held a closed-door meeting for around half-an-hour at Pawar’s residence. It is not clear what transpired at the meeting, but it has raised speculation that Khadse is considering NCP as an alternative.
The former minister is also learnt to be in talks with Shiv Sena and is likely to call Maharashtra chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday.
Both Khadse as well as NCP leaders denied the meeting was a political one . “Our meeting was not political. I met him [Sharad Pawar] to discuss an irrigation project,” Khadse said.
“The meeting was apolitical,” said Nawab Malik, chief spokesperson, NCP, adding that BJP has ignored its Other Backward Class (OBC) leaders in the state and may have to face repercussions in the coming days.
Another senior NCP leader, who did not want to be named, however, said, “Khadse is upset with his party and appears mentally prepared to leave it. He said he wants to join NCP on the condition of a cabinet berth.’’
“He [Khadse] has assured to bring along eight MLAs from BJP. However, the problem in the party is the condition of ministerial position. NCP has got limited cabinet berths and leadership wants to include all those who chose to stay with the party even when it was facing a mass exodus,” said the leader.
A Sena leader, who did not want to be named, said Khadse was in talks with party leadership, but he could not confirm the latter’s meeting with Thackeray.
Khadse, who was forced to resign from Devendra Fadnavis’ cabinet in 2016 over graft allegations, has been steadily sidelined within the party. He was among the few senior leaders denied a ticket to contest the state Assembly polls in October.
Post the results and the BJP debacle in forming the government, Khadse, in his usual blunt style, has taken potshots at Fadnavis. Those within the BJP camp claim that his open rebellion against Fadnavis and inability to avoid criticism had cost him the nomination.
He recently accused the BJP leadership of sidelining its OBC leaders and also claimed that the electoral defeat of former minister Pankaja Munde and his daughter Rohini Khadse was due to internal party rivalry.
“I was invited by many parties and was offered prime positions as well. But I never thought of leaving BJP and continued to work for its growth. However, now I am being insulted again and again, targeted by false allegations and deliberately neglected. I was not given a clean chit despite the allegations against me not being proven,” Khadse said.
The six-term MLA from Muktainagar Assembly constituency in Jalgaon district was once considered as top contender for the CM position when BJP came to power after the Assembly elections in 2014, but the party leadership chose Devendra Fadnavis over him.
Within BJP, there is speculation that Khadse is merely flexing muscles as he is angling for the post of leader of opposition in the legislative council. The BJP’s top leadership is, however, unlikely to concede this to him.
State BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said, “Khadseji’s contribution in the party is big. The party too has given him positions. If he [Khadse] is not happy over something, then things can be sorted out by holding discussions. He was always respected and going by the position he has in the hearts of BJP workers, I am sure he will work on resolving those issues.’’
BJP Maharashtra in-charge Bhupendra Yadav and state BJP leader Vinod Tawde have been asked to mediate on behalf of the party with Khadse.