The rebel BJP leader and former Maharashtra minister, Eknath Khadse on Friday joined the Nationalist Congress Party in the presence of the party’s chief Sharad Pawar.
Sulking since his unceremonious exit from the Devendra Fadnavis-led ministry in 2016 over land grabbing case, Khadse on Wednesday tendered his resignation from the saffron party and announced that he would join the Sharad Pawar-led NCP. The NCP is part of the ruling alliance in the state along with Shiv Sena and Congress, whose Maha-Vikas -Aghadi government assumed office 11 months ago.
Khadse, former Maharashtra Revenue Minister and also an ex-Leader of Opposition in state Assembly, was inducted into the NCP at the party’s head office in Mumbai. Khadse, who flew in here on Thursday from his native Jalgaon district, was in political wilderness during the last four years, though he quit the BJP only two days ago.
Khadse’s formal entry into NCP, scheduled at 2 pm, was delayed by over an hour as Pawar was in a meeting with party minister Jitendra Awhad. , Khadse had blamed the former chief minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis for “trying to destroy his life” and political career, over three decades of it spent in strengthening the BJP in Maharashtra.
However, Fadnavis had said his former BJP colleague was speaking “half truth”, adding Khadse had painted him a villain while making the allegations against him.
However, whether the NCP would be benefited from his entry into the party in Jalgaon and Khandesh is a million dollar question.
Khadse did have the option of joining the Sena or Congress — and he had met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray as well. However, the Khadse family leaned towards the NCP because, as Khadse said, “the NCP has no strong leadership in North Maharashtra”. The NCP’s presence outside Western Maharashtra is limited, and it relies heavily on the charisma of Sharad Pawar elsewhere in the state. Pawar has often lamented the failure of the party to grow in other parts of the state.
It was said that the senior NCP leader, Ajit Pawar and Jitendra Ahwad are not happy with the joining of Khadse in the NCP. Moreover, if Khadse gets a ministerial position, a senior NCP minister has to be deprived and it would lead unrest within the party. They reportedly feel that the party would hardly get any benefit in the region because of entry in the party.