Mumbai: A day after expressing apprehensions about whether the dominant ‘Leva Patil’ community will vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), veteran saffron leader Eknath Khadse on Sunday skipped Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first rally held in Maharashtra, in his stronghold of Jalgaon.
The move is being seen as a huge snub to the BJP leadership by Khadse, who holds significant sway over the OBC community. At the time of welcoming Modi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took the name of every senior leader present on the dais, even as he steered clear of mentioning Khadse.
And while the Prime Minister spoke of everything, including the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in Jammu and Kashmir and its impact, achievements of the Fadnavis government and a demoralised opposition, talks among local political circles centred on ‘Nathabhau’s’ (as Khadse is popularly known) absence.
His daughter Rohini and daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse were present on dais during the rally though. Party workers said he had informed the leadership about his inability to attend the event due to a family commitment.
A day ago, Khadse had said it was difficult that the Leva Patil community would vote for the BJP. “I am aware that my community leaders have issued a notice against voting for the BJP in 25 constituencies where members of the community are present. It is because they believe whatever has happened to me is injustice. I have tried to tell them that they should vote for the BJP. But it looks difficult. I don’t know what they will do,” he told reporters.
The senior BJP leader is known for having thrown several tantrums in the past. In 2014, he was in charge of 12 portfolios when the new government was formed. He had to resign after a corruption allegation surfaced against him. Party insiders say the rift between Fadnavis and Khadse has led to the party leadership denying him a ticket this time.
He had filed his nomination independently in the hope that the BJP would announce his name in one of the four lists of nominees. He even held a massive rally in Muktainagar. As his patience ran thin, his supporters started expressing their resentment. In a bid to bring the situation under control, the party leadership gave a ticket to his daughter Rohini.
However, the fact that this would have been the last election for the 69-year-old leader and he has missed the opportunity has hit him hard. Party insiders say the denial of ticket and a boost to rival Girish Mahajan, a cabinet minister, are an effort to end his dominance in the party and in the region.