Facing heat over a string of corruption charges, Eknath became the first casualty in BJP to keep up with the mantra of ‘zero tolerance’ of corruption.
Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, who is facing a host of allegations, finally resigned from all his posts on Saturday to ‘uphold the moral values of BJP’ and said that the party was still standing firmly behind him over the ‘baseless’ allegations.
Khadse’s resignation came a day after Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis met PM Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah in the national capital.
It has not been an easy decision for the party leadership to ask a veteran BJP leader to quit, but it had no option but to accept his ‘resignation on moral grounds’ till an inquiry is conducted into the allegations. These ranged from alleged calls made to underworld don Dawood to the MIDC land deal and came at a time when the government was celebrating the completion of its second year in power.
Though Khadse has become the first casualty in BJP, his resignation was also important for the party to keep up with Modi’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards corruption, as the issue was making national headlines for over two weeks. The party also doesn’t want to lose the support of its loyalists ahead of the legislative council elections due on June 10.
The 40-year-long political journey of this strong leader from the Leva-Patil (OBC) community in Jalgaon has seen a steady rise and been filled with controversies. From being an aspiring chief minister to a controversial minister, the Khadse has handled several portfolios including revenue and excise, minorities development and wakf, agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy development and fisheries.
Khadse, who was close to Gopinath Munde and popularly known has Nathabhu in the state, began his career as a sarpanch from a small village in Jalgaon. In 1987, for the first time he went on to become an MLA Muktainagar and since then has been consecutively elected from the constituency six times. When the Shiv Sena-BJP was voted to power in 1995, Khadse became the finance minister. Later, he also served as Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state from 2010 to 2014, before becoming the revenue minister in 2014.
However, the party’s second most important leader in the state has not become a target for the first time. Khadse was in the eye of the storm when the Shiv Sena believed he was behind breaking the 25-year-old grand alliance, which he himself accepted in an earlier interview with dna. He had also openly expressed his dissent when he was not elected as CM, saying no one from North Maharashtra (Khandesh) had got the CM’s post.
Khadse has also been targeted because all his family members hold top posts. His wife Mandakini Khadse is president of the Mahanand dairy, while daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse is an MP, who was fielded to replace the party’s sitting MP Haribhau Jawale.
On Saturday, Khadse also attempted to indirectly compare himself with Advani and Gadkari by saying that they too resigned when allegations were levelled against them and claimed that there has been an unprecedented media trial against him. But the leader seems to have forgotten that during his stint as opposition leader, he himself had trained guns on Congress-NCP alliance over corruption charges and brought the issue in media, forcing Ajit Pawar to resign from his post as Deputy CM.
Khadse’s resignation also brings up the fate of two other ministers in the state, Pankaja Munde and Vinod Tawde, who are also facing charges of corruption. Tawde is facing the opposition heat over his degree row, irregularities in awarding contracts without tender and for continuing as a director in a private company, while Munde faced allegations of involvement in the chikki scam.
Khadse’s resignation has given fodder to the opposition to go against the BJP government more fiercely.
First published on dnaindia.com