'I digested all the humiliation that Fadnavisji had heaped on me, but I had never seen somebody stooping so low to prove one's dominance in any political party.'
The father-daughter duo of Eknath Khadse and Rohini Khadse, who quit the Bharatiya Janata Party this week and joined Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party, speak to Rediff.com about how he was humiliated in the party for which he worked hard and sincerely for 40 years.
Khadse is a six-time elected legislator from Muktainagar in Maharashtra's Jalgaon district. He was the revenue minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government when he was asked to step down on charges of corruption, which Khadse claims was a conspiracy hatched against him by Fadnavis who saw his senior colleague as a threat to his position in the party.
Though Khadse was denied a ticket to contest the 2019 assembly election from Muktainagar, the BJP gave the ticket to his daughter Rohini, ostensibly to pacify him. Rohini lost the election to rebel Shiv Sena candidate Chandrakant Numba Patil, who contested as an independent.
Ever since that loss Khadse has been contemplating quitting the party, and holds Fadnavis was responsible for his daughter's defeat to finish off Khadse's political career.
Interestingly, Khadse's daughter-in-law, Raksha, the widow of his son Nikhil, is a two-time BJP Lok Sabha MP from Maharashtra's Raver constituency.
"Despite these 40 years of toil and loyalty if you get only humiliation, injustice, just because one person is playing games to prove his superiority and dominance, then soldiers like me are left with no option but act towards restoring their honour and dignity," Eknath Khadse tells Prasanna D Zore.
How do you look at 40 years of Eknath Khadse being a BJP worker?
I began my political journey in the BJP as a grassroots worker. When I started there was not even a gram panchayat worker who was with the party, 99 per cent of villages in the district (Jalgaon) never entertained BJP workers. They were just asked to get lost.
The BJP was treated like untouchables in Jalgaon. From that situation the BJP has reached where it is now.
When you have worked so loyally and lovingly for a party, it becomes very painful to quit such an organisation.
But you still quit the party?
Despite these 40 years of toil and loyalty if you get only humiliation, injustice, just because one person is playing games to prove his superiority and dominance, then soldiers like me are left with no option but act towards restoring their honour and dignity.
Who is this one person you are referring to?
Devendra Fadnavis conspired against me by levelling baseless charges of corruption against me.
The case of molestation against me (social activist and former Aam Aadmi Party member Anjali Damania had filed a case of molestation against Khadse over a speech he had made) was filed at the behest of the honourable Devendra Fadnavisji. That was the last straw.
I had digested all the humiliation that he had heaped on me before, but I had never seen somebody stooping so low to prove one's dominance in any political party.
That (the case of molestation) was the last straw that made me quit the party.
I had nothing to do with all such charges (of molestation and corruption) against me, but yet I was purposely humiliated. I felt the party no longer needed my services.
Could you share your memories of the party that you were once a part of?
I have no complaint against the party whatsoever. I had no complaint against the BJP in the past, present, nor will I have any issue with the party in the future.
I lived my life in the BJP because I liked the party, didn't I?
My only issue was with Devendra Fadnavisji.
Till the time he was not at the helm of the BJP's affairs in Maharashtra I had no complaint against anybody. Everything was hunky-dory.
In fact, I was the one who got him a seat behind me (when Khadse was the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra assembly). He used to sit on the backbenches.
But when I saw that he adopted dictatorial methods to sideline me, despite me accepting him as the chief minister of Maharashtra, and began insulting me and conspiring against me at any given opportunity, I had to revolt against his dictatorship.
Please note that it is just not me who is feeling like this and did what I did. There are many more leaders in the Maharashtra BJP who feel the same way. That's why a lot of them are planning to quit the party in the future.
Would you say that the BJP will face a difficult time in Jalgaon now? Will it cease to exist?
No party, big or small, ceases to exist just because a leader quits the party. Political parties can get only weaker or stronger.
Only time will prove how many people they will be able to get elected from there (Jalgaon) now.
Now that you have joined the NCP, what will be your responsibilities in the new party?
I have been saying this ever since I quit the party (BJP), that I was not joining the NCP with any expectation.
In the BJP too I had accepted whatever came my way (despite being a contender for the post of chief ministership, Khadse was made revenue minister in Fadnavis's cabinet and he accepted it).
Eknath Khadse is not hungry for power or posts. But honour and self-esteem are non-negotiable.
I have worked sincerely for the people of the state and have done lot of development work in whatever opportunity the BJP gave me. I have not joined the NCP for any posts or ministership. I just need the support of the government so that I can do more for the people of Maharashtra.
I have to finish all the pending development projects that I had undertaken (when I was in the BJP).
After toiling 40 years for the party have you now been made to feel that the BJP values Devendra Fadnavis more than Eknath Khadse?
I will leave that to the people of Maharashtra to decide.
But you have said on record that you raised all your issues with the senior leadership of the BJP, both at the central and state levels, and yet you have quit the party now?
It is the party that always decides who gets what. But let the top leadership of the BJP answer this question.
'There was no happiness when he quit BJP'
Rohini, Eknath Khadse's daughter who joined the NCP along with her father, speaks about how her father felt when he quit the BJP.
How emotional was your father when he made the decision to quit the BJP?
When Nathabhau (as her father is called) declared his decision to quit the BJP he was very sad and emotional.
The emotional state when my father quit the BJP after 40 years of hard work can be compared to somebody raising a small child for 40 years and after that he is made to quit the house because of somebody.
There was no happiness when he quit the party. But he had to quit the BJP for the reasons he has spoken about in his press conference on October 21.
But now that he has made his decision, he is quite comfortable with it and is all set for a new innings in a new party.
He is now all charged to work equally harder for the NCP and help its expansion in Maharashtra. He has now dropped all the old baggage off his shoulders.
What will be his responsibilities in the NCP?
That only time will tell. I won't be able to comment on this question now. He was never after power and ministerial berths. Honour comes before all these things.
What will be your responsibilities in the NCP?
To expand the political base of the party. I will soon be touring across the state and fufill all the responsibilities that the NCP entrusts me with.
Nathabhau has been saying this repeatedly that he has not joined the NCP for power or post. We have joined the NCP without any expectations.