Top Maharashtra minister Eknath Khadse's resignation has come as a big blow to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is the first major resignation of a BJP leader after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power two years ago. Khadse is no ordinary minister. After late Gopinath Munde, Khadse has been the second most important mass leader of the BJP in Maharashtra.
Like Munde, he is also a Backward Class leader with considerable clout and mass appeal across the state. As leader of the opposition in Maharashtra Assembly, Khadse took on the previous Congress–NCP combine on several occasions.
He has been a close follower of the Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde camp. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is way junior to him in politics and used to sit in the back rows as an opposition MLA under Khadse's leadership. When the BJP won Maharashtra Assembly election in October 2014, Khadse was also in the race for the top post. But, local political dynamics forced the BJP high command in New Delhi to prefer Fadnavis over Khadse. He reluctantly joined the Fadnavis Cabinet and was given the charge of more than 6 portfolios.
It clearly shows that the BJP is wary of him and wants to keep him happy, fully knowing that he can cause more damage to the party in the future.
After quitting the government Khadse said, “in 40 years of my political life, I have never faced this kind of media trial on baseless charges. All allegations against me are false and I have been framed. I have resigned to uphold the high moral standards of the BJP and will come out clean."
Talking about Khadse's importance, well known journalist from Maharashtra Ashish Dixit said, "Khadse always resented the fact that he was overlooked for the post of chief minister. He is the most popular OBC leader in the state BJP. He had also been the only experienced minister in the government. Minister Khadse was good for the BJP. A disgruntled MLA Khadse can cost them dearly in future. The BJP knows this quite well and tried to give him an honourable exit."
After allegations of Khadse being in touch with underworld don in hiding Dawood Ibrahim surfaced two weeks ago, he actually managed to survive that attack. Finally, what forced him to quit were allegations of shady land deals done by him. The media campaign and the relentless attack by former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Anjali Damania made him put in his papers.
The Impact Of Khadse Quitting
According to local media coverage, there has already been a whisper campaign against Fadnavis that an OBC leader was removed by him. Khadse himself has put up posters of him with late Gopinath Munde indicating that he is the only OBC leader left in the BJP. The cold war between him and the CM is well known and is likely to intensify in the days to come. Unlike many others, Khadse is brazen and loud. He is unlikely to swallow the humiliation and stay silent. He may hit back at the right time.
Shiv Sena Role
The Shiv Sena which is a “reluctant” partner in the government has also played a major role in Khadse's removal. State Industries Minister Subhash Desai who is close to Sena chief Udhav Thackeray openly admitted that the land in question was indeed a government property aggravating problems for the BJP leader. Khadse is a very powerful leader in Jalgaon district and the Shiv Sena has been fighting a turf war with him in that region. “They saw this as a perfect opportunity to settle score with him,” said Ashish Dixit.
Others Facing ChargesTwo other ministers in the state Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde are also facing charges of corruption. Though they have so far managed to stay in power. Khadse's resignation has set a precedent and Anjali Damania has already threatened to go after them once again. If that happens, BJP will be forced to take a tough decision as they have done to Khadse.