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No Mention in BJP's 3 Nominee Lists, An NCP Invite: Is This Eknath Khadse's Test of Patience and Loyalty?

Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar cancelled one of his rallies to meet Eknath Khadse, a move that sparked several rumours across Maharashtra that is scheduled for Assembly elections on October 21.

Vinaya Deshpande | CNN-News18@vinivdvc

Updated:October 4, 2019, 7:48 AM IST
No Mention in BJP's 3 Nominee Lists, An NCP Invite: Is This Eknath Khadse's Test of Patience and Loyalty?
A file photo of senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse.

Mumbai: Three lists and 143 candidates later, senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse's patience seemed to be running thin. Unable to find a mention of his name in any of the three lists, Khadse on Thursday spoke about his loyalty to the party before agitated supporters.

Within some time, senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar cancelled one of his rallies to meet Khadse — this soon sparked several rumours across the state that is scheduled to hold Assembly elections on October 21.

"The BJP has been unjust towards Khadse ji. He did so much for the party, but the party did not recognise it. We will welcome him if he decides to join the NCP,” senior party leader Chhagan Bhujbal said in Nasik.

NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar echoed Bhujbal’s sentiments, but refrained from commenting on whether Khadse was on his way to switching loyalty.

The BJP is yet to name its contender from the Muktainagar seat, Khadse's constituency in Jalgaon district.

For the saffron party, the Leva-Patil community holds much importance and Khadse has been the party’s point person for years in getting the group’s support. But with senior cabinet minister Girish Mahajan’s growing clout in north Maharashtra, Khadse seemed to be losing his stature in the saffron camp.

But the seven-time MLA, who is considered a senior face among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), is hopeful that either he or his daughter would be given a party ticket.

A source close to Khadse told News18 that the leader has already filed his nomination, but not as an Independent, as reported in several quarters.

"Khadse is hopeful that he will get an AB form for the party. If the party gives the AB form to his daughter, he will withdraw his nomination. However, he is currently very upset. Despite that, he hasn't filed his nomination as an Independent candidate," added the source.

Khadse’s supporters are visibly agitated and urged him to leave the party. The situation in Muktainagar is tense. However, while speaking to reporters in his constituency, Khadse said, "I had told workers and others in the past too that I will contest the election if my health is in good shape."

The MLA, however, did not respond to a question on whether he was willing to contest the Assembly election. Asked about media reports that he has been offered the governor's post by the party, Khadse said he was "clueless" about it.

"I am the worker who follows orders of the party. I have obeyed the party over the past 40-42 years. The orders may have been bitter for me, against my will, but I have followed the orders. There is not a single example of me not following party orders. So, I will follow the decision party makes," the former minister added.

Sources said Khadse lost his prominence in the party due to his enmity with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. When the BJP won the maximum number of seats in 2014, Khadse was eyeing the chief minister's post given his seniority, legislative experience, and due to the fact that he is an OBC face.

The party had instead chosen Fadnavis, leading to animosity between the two. After Khadse's name surfaced in a scam, the chief minister made him step down as revenue minister.

Now, if Khadse or his family members do not get tickets for the coming elections, it will effectively mean an end to Khadse’s political career. The leader is 69 years old and would be 74 by the time the next election takes place.

(With inputs from PTI)

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