Mumbai: Disgruntled Maharashtra BJP leader Eknath Khadse will join the NCP on Friday, state minister Jayant Patil said on Wednesday, ending speculations about the senior saffron party leader jumping the ship.
Khadse was sulking since he was made to resign as minister in 2016 in the then Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government over corruption allegations.
Speaking to reporters here, Patil, who is the state NCP chief, said with the joining of a seasoned leader like Khadse, who is a former minister and ex-leader of opposition in the state Assembly, the Sharad Pawar-led party will be strengthened, particularly in the Khandesh region.
Khadse, who is believed to have strained ties with Fadnavis, comes from Jalgaon district of the Khandesh region.
Once seen as No.2 in the then Fadnavis cabinet, Khadse resigned as revenue minister in 2016 over land grab allegations, and since then he has been largely sidelined in the saffron party.
Patil claimed “a lot of people” want to join the NCP, but said there is no need to hold bypolls amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“Eknathrao Khadse saheb, who worked hard along with (late) Gopinath Munde saheb to expand and strengthen the BJP in Maharashtra for several years, told me some time back that he has quit his party,” Patil said.
“Since he has quit the BJP, he will join the NCP at 2 pm on Friday. I am sure this will strengthen the NCP,” said Patil, who is the state’s water resources minister.
People of the state had seen that “injustice” was meted to Khadse for past some years in the BJP, leading him to switch loyalty, he claimed.
Patil said he is sure the BJP will introspect as to why a senior leader like Khadse quit the party.
Asked about the role Khadse will be given in the NCP, Patil said, “The party will take a decision about it…he has consented to work under the leadership of Pawar saheb.” Eknath Khadse’s daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse is the Lok Sabha member from Raver seat in Maharashtra.
To a question on who all will join the NCP along with Eknath Khadse, Patil said, “A lot of people want to join the NCP with him. But there is no need to hold Assembly (by)polls immediately during the COVID-19 period.”
“As per my information, a lot of MLAs are in touch with him. But we are going to avoid politics and such elections given the COVID-19 threat is still prevailing,” the NCP leader said.
He also said people who have been left “disillusioned” by the BJP and think it cannot help them achieve development will “slowly” join the NCP.
Ahead of the state Assembly polls last year, a number of NCP and Congress leaders joined the BJP and many of them had cited the cause of development for their move.
Patil also exuded confidence that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, will “run for a long time” and said the five-year term is a small period.
“I don’t want to boast, but in the last eight days, I held discussions with three-four leaders of the BJP from different parts. They are also willing to join the NCP. We will let you (the media) know about their entry, he added.