MUMBAI: With pressure mounting on chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the BJP to act on a series of allegations against revenue minister Eknath Khadse, the minister on Tuesday skipped a cabinet meeting and the filing of nominations of BJP candidates for the Rajya Sabha and legislative council elections.
With the party leadership mulling action against him and no senior minister standing by him, Khadse resorted to a show of strength in his constituency of Jalgaon.
Late on Monday, Khadse sent a letter to Fadnavis, saying he would be unable to attend Tuesday’s cabinet meeting. Instead, he attended a religious function of his community in Jalgaon, which his supporters thronged.
Speaking in his constituency, Khadse refused to resign, saying he was not worried about the allegations against him as the goddess Muktai, his family deity, was behind him.
Khadse, who is from the Leva Patil community, designated as an Other Backward Class, also urged MLAs from the community to stand behind him. Khadse reportedly enjoys the support of 15 MLAs, including 11 from his community.
A source close to the minister said, “Khadse was upset when he realised that the party leaders and cabinet colleagues were refusing to stand by him. His meeting with Fadnavis on Monday failed to bring him solace.”
A BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, said, “It is all but decided that his wings will be clipped by taking away a few of his portfolios, including revenue, during the reshuffle in the second half of June. His removal from the state cabinet, however, seems impossible as it is against BJP policy. The party has not initiated any action against its top leaders, including Sushman Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chauhan, despite allegations against them. Also, Khadse is one of the most powerful leaders in Maharashtra and has immense nuisance value, which could hurt the party.”
Meanwhile, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have upped the ante against Khadse, demanding he be sacked.