Hours after internal squabbling in the Maharashtra BJP burst out in open with state unit chief Chandrakant Patil virtually asking disgruntled senior leader Eknath Khadse to play the role of a consultant, and the latter questioning Patil's "contribution" in expanding the party, the Congress gave Khadse an open offer to join the party on Wednesday.
The Congress latched onto the growing chasm between senior BJP leader Khadse and his party, state Congress president and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said Khadse is welcome in the party fold provided he subscribes to the party ideology.
The internal rift within the saffron party came to the fore when Patil, while speaking to a Marathi new channel, launched a no-holds-barred attack on Khadse, a day after the latter accused his colleagues in BJP of scuttling his nomination to the May 21 Legislative Council elections for nine seats.
"Eknath Khadse is a senior leader of Maharashtra BJP. He can serve as a consultant to the party's current leadership," Patil said in a stinging open attack.
Patil debunked Khadse's claims that the party cold-shouldered him and failed to recognise his services for its growth.
"When Khadse had denied tickets to some BJP leaders previously to get nominations for his daughter-in-law and son for Lok Sabha as well as MLC seats, what did he tell those people who were denied the opportunity?" Patil asked.
Patil said why Khadse was singling out a decent person like Devendra Fadnavis, a former chief minister and current the Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Assembly.
Khadse has been in sulk since he was made to resign as a minister in 2016, when Fadnavis was the CM, in the wake of allegations of corruption.
Meanwhile, Thorat said, "Khadse is my old friend. We have been together in the Legislative Assembly since 1990. He was a competent leader of opposition. He is a leader with a mass base. If he accepts the Congress' ideology then he is welcome," Thorat told reporters.
He was referring to Khadse's claim that the Congress, one of the constituents in the Shiv Sena-led state government, had approached him with a nomination for the May 21 Legislative Council elections.
Khadse had alleged that a clique of state BJP leaders scuttled his nomination for the polls.
Hitting back on Wednesday, state BJP president Chandrakant Patil said the party had given enough to Khadse and that he can now serve as a consultant for young party leaders.
"Why is Khadse making allegations against Fadnavis? He should understand that leadership does not only mean becoming MLC or MLA or a minister," Patil said.
Khadse had claimed on Tuesday that he knew, by virtue of being a member of the state BJP parliamentary committee, that he would be nominated for MLC polls.
"However, going by the dates of the documents filed by four candidates of the party, it is clear that they knew about their nomination to the Legislative Council in advance," he had claimed.
Khadse also claimed that most of the BJP nominees had written to local authorities seeking no-dues certificates in March itself.
"Against this background, there was no need for our party colleagues to lie to us that I and other leaders would be recommended to the Central committee as prospective nominees for MLC polls," he had said.
Meanwhile, responding to Patil's claims, Khadse questionned the former's contribution in expanding the party's base in Maharashtra.
"I started contesting the Assembly elections when nobody was ready to represent the BJP in the state. Everyone used to ridicule the BJP. The party was then called as the representative of Shetjis (the merchant community) and Bhatjis (Brahmins). However, leaders like me took it to the masses. We increased the party's base among OBCs across the state," Khadse said.
He also fired barbs at Patil for accusing him of playing dynastic politics.
"I gave tickets to my family members only when there was assurance of winning the concerned seat for the party. And
because we were winning, the party continued to give us tickets. We have earned the right to demand ticket because of our hard work and contribution to the party," Khadse said.
Devendra Fadnavis' father was a politician and his aunt was also member of legislative council for more than two decades. Should we now call his leadership as an outcome of dynastic politics? asked Khadse.
"Union minister Raosaheb Danve in an MP and his son is an MLA; I wonder what Patil has to say about this," added Khadse.