Khadse resigns: Modi and Shah said to have had enough of allegations
- Maharashtra BJP\'s seniormost leader, Eknath Khadse, has resigned from the state cabinet
- Sources say PM Modi and party president Amit Shah had heard enough of the allegations against him
- The state BJP is scrambling to find someone to fill in for Khadse\'s experience
- His portfolios are set to be divided among finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and PWD minister Chandrakant Patil
- Is Khadse being targeted because he\'s an OBC?
- The promised probe into Khadse - will it be anything more than an eyewash?
The inevitable has happened. The Maharashtra BJP's seniormost leader and the No.2 man in the state government, revenue minister Eknath Khadse, has finally resigned from the post, following serious allegations.
Khadse tried hard to overcome the taint, but it seems the party's central leadership, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, had heard enough.
Highly-placed sources in the BJP said the apparent illegality in the purchase of Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) land near Pune was the proverbial last straw on the camel's back.
"Khadse would have sailed through on technicalities when it came to other allegations. But the apparent illegalities and quid pro quo was something the party leadership could not tolerate. Shah and Modi were highly upset when this was brought to their notice, and immediately decided to remove Khadse from the cabinet," a source said.
Speaking to the media at the state BJP office in Mumbai after resigning, Khadse reiterated his innocence, and alleged he was being victimised. He also said there was a 'media trial' going on, and this was disturbing as it maligned the image of the party and the government.
"The people levelling the allegations don't have any concrete evidence to prove them," he added.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered an inquiry by a retired High Court judge in to the allegations levelled against Khadse.
The search for a replacement
Now that Khadse has resigned, Opposition parties are busy celebrating the victory, while the BJP has been forced to brainstorm to find Khadse's successor.
At present, the party is facing a crisis of leaders who could replace Khadse, and shoulder the responsibilities of vital portfolios such as revenue and agriculture.
Sources in the BJP said that the dozen portfolios held by Khadse are set to be divided among finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and PWD minister Chandrakant Patil.
A senior BJP leader agreed that after Khadse's resignation, there is a major crisis in terms of finding a replacement for him. "We will have to walk a tightrope to find a replacement for Khadse," the leader said.
Senior journalist and political analyst Abhay Deshpande feels that Khadse's exit is bound to cost the BJP dearly in the Assembly sessions to come.
"One should not forget that Khadse has nearly four decades of political experience as an MLA. This is much more than any other BJP leader in the state, including CM Fadnavis. There have been occasions when Khadse had stood firm in both the houses and swatted away the Opposition's attacks," Deshpande said.
According to Deshpande, Khadse's exit is untimely for the BJP, because a firebrand leader like Congress's Narayan Rane has now become an MLC. Rane will not leave any opportunity to attack the government.
"One should not forget that the timing of the resignation is so critical that there is no revenue and agriculture minister for the state when the monsoon is round the corner, and an experienced leader is a must as minister for these departments to take prompt decisions in case of natural calamity," Deshpande said.
"Moreover, the government will face lot of challenges during the monsoon session of the state Assembly."
The OBC factor
There is a possibility that Khadse's resignation will make the BJP's OBC leaders feel victimised. In fact, it is being touted as the prime reason for the action against Khadse.
Congress's Rane said: "The action against Khadse is clearly aimed at the elimination of OBC leadership in the state. Earlier, it was Chhagan Bhujbal, and now it is Khadse. This government seems to have decided to target OBC leaders."
However, veteran journalist and political analyst Kumar Ketkar feels the otherwise. According to him, the leadership crisis in the BJP is a secondary issue.
"The primary and most vital aspect of today's development is that this is for the first time that the state BJP has suffered such a major blow, and an OBC leader is the face of it. This will be a turning point in state politics," Ketkar said.
He said the resignation and the inquiry ordered into it is nothing but a farce. "Khadse has already been assured of a clean chit, and he will be re-inducted into the cabinet before the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) elections."
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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