'When people in the Opposition join a ruling party, their intentions will always be looked down with suspicion.'
'The people who have been loyal to the party and have helped it strike roots feel wronged against when such instances happen.'
'They feel sidelined and neglected despite their loyalty to the party.'
With a flood of Opposition leaders from the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party joining the Bharatiya Janata Party before next month's assembly election in Maharashtra, concerns are being expressed in the BJP about its impact on the image of the 'party with a difference'.
Senior BJP leader from Maharashtra and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari expressed displeasure over such opportunistic party-hopping bereft of any ideological leaning. 'One should stick to an ideology and avoid party-switching like rats jumping from a sinking ship,' Gadkari said in Nagpur recently.
Former Maharashtra revenue minister Eknath Khadse -- who is considered Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's rival in the state BJP -- said the Opposition leaders joining the BJP are 'no saints' and that the 'chief minister has washing powder' with which he cleans such leaders.
Khadse, who was asked to quit as Maharashtra's revenue minister in June 2016 amid charges of corruption in the Bhosari land scam, discusses the influx into the BJP from the Congress-NCP with Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore.
Why is your party accepting the influx from these parties?
I stand firm on what I have said about the leaders from the Congress-NCP joining the BJP. But admitting these leaders in the party is a different issue. Because it is by admitting such leaders we strengthen and expand our party.
One must bear in mind that those Opposition leaders who join us don't come with a feeling of selflessness. They always join with some expectations.
When people in the Opposition join a ruling party, their intentions will always be looked down with suspicion. They too expect to gain something from their entry. That does not make them bad, though. Good people are also joining the BJP.
How does one differentiate between the good apples and bad apples that have recently joined the BJP? Will this benefit or harm the interests of the party?
That can now only be decided by the times to come.
What is your opinion about these leaders joining the BJP just as the state is set for Vidhan Sabha elections?
Do you see these people joining the BJP for selfish interests or are they genuinely attracted towards your party's ideology?
The latter would be true if these politicians were to join the BJP when it was the Opposition party in the state.
But let me remind you that a lot of people did join the BJP when we did not have the power to give doles or ministerships. Those were the people who truly believed in the BJP's ideology.
The influx that is joining us now is almost coming five years after the BJP has been in power and is poised to come back to power.
It is quite common for people to join the party in power or a party whose influence has spread as much as the BJP's has in India. So, some people are joining the BJP now.
Are you saying they have joined the BJP to enjoy the perks of power?
Some people do come with the intention of enjoying the fruits of power and some others come to strengthen the party's base and roots too.
Once they get associated with the ruling party, then they get a salute from petty as well as influential officials at the state and district level, isn't it?
In such situations, even if they don't get any posts they do get the prestige and honour enjoyed by members of the ruling party.
Nitin Gadkari expressed displeasure over the influx from the Congress-NCP, saying leaders should avoid switching parties for the sake of power?
Do you think it is a message to the state BJP over the admission of a large number of prominent leaders from the Congress-NCP who, perhaps, don't share the BJP's core ideology?
Does it not dampen the spirits of loyal BJP workers who have given their sweat and blood for the party?
The people who have been loyal to the party and have helped the party strike roots across Maharashtra do feel wronged against when such instances happen.
They do feel sidelined and neglected despite their loyalty to the party. So, these people (senior BJP leaders) should delicately balance those who are joining the party now and those who have been with the party through thick and thin.
So, you are happy with the way the BJP is expanding by the entry of leaders from the Congress-NCP?
How will the party expand unless we admit more and more people into our party?
But don't loyal party workers like you feel neglected or sidelined when they see leaders from the Opposition joining the party just before an important Vidhan Sabha election with the intention of enjoying the fruits of power?
Daavalu naye hi apeksha aahe (I expect not to be sidelined or ignored).
The Maharashtra chief minister is on an extensive tour of the state to take the party's performance to the people via his Maha Janadesh Yatra. How do you rate his performance?
Performance changla aahe mhanun yash milat aahe na (The CM's performance is good and that is the reason we are being successful)! We are successful because of our performance! The people would have rejected us otherwise.
People are joining us and are happy with us because we have done better than what the previous (Congress-NCP) government had done. That is the reason for the BJP's electoral success in Maharashtra in most of the elections in the last five years.
How do you rate Devendra Fadnavis?
Does my opinion matter? If the people of Maharashtra think he is doing a good job (as the CM) then definitely he has done better than what the previous governments did.
How many seats will the BJP-Shiv Sena win in the Vidhan Sabha election?
The BJP will comfortably win a majority on our own strength.
Do you think Aditya Thackeray is CM material?
Aditya Thackeray is yet to win any election. He has not yet contested any election to win people's support. I am happy that he is gradually playing an active role in Maharashtra politics.
Only the people of Maharashtra can decide who their next CM will be. But now that he has entered politics he can become a good leader after winning people's faith and support.
There have been rumours floating ever since you were asked to give up your ministership in 2016 that you may join some party or float your own party to contest the assembly election in the state? You too have chief ministerial ambitions.
Ha media-cha chamatkar aahe baki kahi nahi (this is media's mischief).
You are categorical that you have no intention to quit the BJP.
I have never said that I have any intention to leave the BJP. That is just media mischief.
Media-la kadhi-kadhi asa sakshatkar hoto (Sometimes the media does get such clairvoyance).