Former Maharashtra BJP leader Eknath Khadse on Friday joined the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) 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 grab allegations, Khadse (68) on Wednesday quit the BJP. The same day, state NCP chief Jayant Patil announced he would be joining the Pawar-led party.
NCP is part of the ruling alliance in the state along with Shiv Sena and Congress, whose Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) 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.
The leader, who flew into Mumbai on Thursday from his native Jalgaon district in north Maharashtra, 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. Jayant Patil welcomed Khadse in the party, by offering him a scarf.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Khadse had blamed Fadnavis for "trying to destroy his life" and political career, over three decades of it spent in strengthening the BJP in Maharashtra.
Responding to the charges levelled by Khadse against him, Fadnavis (50) had said his former BJP colleague was speaking "half truth", adding Khadse had painted him a villain while making the allegations against him. Khadse, the senior-most minister in the Fadnavis ministry, had resigned as revenue minister in 2016 over land grab allegations, and was since then largely sidelined in the BJP.
Responding to the charges levelled by Khadse against him, Fadnavis (50) had said his former BJP colleague was speaking "half truth", adding Khadse had painted him a villain while making the allegations against him.
"If he had complaints about me, he would have told seniors of the party," Fadnavis said. Terming Khadse's resignation as unfortunate, Fadnavis said, "It would have been better had he not resigned. I will not speak about this today but will do so at a proper time." Fadnavis added Khadse had painted him a villain while making the allegations against him.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said the BJP should think why are its foundation stones coming off when it is reaching the pinnacle of success.
Thackeray said Khadse is "definitely welcome" to the family of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. He added that Khadse is among the leaders who expanded the BJP's base in parts of the state along with Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde.
"Khadse has a separate identity, is a fighter and a straight-forward leader," the Shiv Sena president said.
Meanwhile, terming Khadse's decision to quit the BJP unfortunate, Union minister Raosaheb Danve said the issues he had could have been resolved with time.
"Due to some reasons, he was away from the main flow of politics, but that doesn't mean Khadse should leave the BJP. This is unfortunate," Danve said.