It is generally said, that nothing is permanent in politics, not friends, not foes not power and not even influence. There are a number of examples we can cite, there is no dearth of politicians, political leaders who took even lesser time to fall than they took to rise.
A leader from Maharashtra rose to prominence over the decades. In 2014, he was even in the race of becoming Chief Minister. Five years later, he is nowhere to be seen. There is silence from the party whenever someone asks about him. Many also believe that he was deliberately sidelined. But he still won’t leave the party.
If you have not guessed who the leader is? The leader from Maharashtra is Eknath Khadse. A senior BJP leader having a political career spanning across four decades but in the last four years, BJP seems to have brushed him aside. But before going into the present scenario in detail, let’s talk about his past.
Eknath Khadse, born in a family from a humble background in Jalgaon was first spotted by Ashok Phadke, who was an RSS Preacher. The major credit of turning the young and ambitious Khadse into a champion of Hindutva goes to Phadke. Interestingly enough, Khadse’s own family was congress supporter.
Since the 80’s when BJP was born, he remained a loyal footsoldier of BJP. The BJP’s rise in north Maharashtra is credited to the relentless effort of Khadse. He built the party from scratch in this region and today, it is one of the strongest units of the BJP in Maharashtra. There are stories about Khadse working in this region to ensure party’s spread. He used to travel to every nook and corner of the villages in Jalgaon on cycle or motorcycle announcing his own rallies.
In 1987, he became the sarpanch of his village Kothali in the Muktainagar tehsil and got elected to the Assembly for the first time in 1990 from what was then known as the Edlabad constituency. Edlabad was renamed Muktainagar during the 2009 delimitation exercise. Since then, Khadse has never looked back.
During the Ram Temple movement of the early 1990s, Khadse, also led the Karsevaks. He was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police in Jhansi and had to spend around a month behind bars. In Maharashtra, he was known to be a loyalist of former BJP leader Gopinath Munde. But he shot to fame in the state when he was first appointed finance minister, and later the irrigation minister in the first ever Sena-BJP government between 1995-1999.
In 1999, the BJP-Sena returned to the opposition benches. But he continued to be a loyal deputy of Munde until 2009 when Munde migrated to national politics. By then Khadse used the time between 1999 and 2009 to become the strongest leader from Jalgaon district in particular and Northern Maharashtra in general. He played a crucial role of first establishing BJP’s control over the Zilla Parishad, then the district cooperative bank and then finally taking control of Jalgaon Municipal Corporation. But in all that, he fought a bitter battle with BJP’s alliance partner Shivsena’s local strong man Suresh Dada Jain.
All of this aside, people believed that it was his tenure as opposition leader in Maharashtra assembly that played a crucial role in bringing down Maharashtra’s Congress-NCP government in 2014 and shot him to fame. This tenure also established him as BJP’s strong face in Maharashtra.
But it is also said that Khadse had played an active role in ending the 25 years of alliance between Sena and BJP just ahead of assembly elections of 2014. After BJP won with the majority, his name was in CM race along with Devendra Fadnavis, but party overlooked him and Devendra Fadnavis was made Maharashtra’s CM. Khadse, who had established himself as an OBC leader by then as given revenue ministry. but Khadse was the first one in Fadnavis government against whom the corruption charges had emerged which led to his downfall.
He was accused of corruption in the purchase of an industrial plot near Pune in the name of his wife and son-in-law. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) had acquired the plot, but the government did not complete the process of compensating the original owner for years. Khadse’s kin bought the three-acre plot for Rs 3.75 crore despite MIDC officials having informed the former minister about the plot’s acquisition for industrial purposes.
According to ready reckoner rates, the market price of the plot was at least Rs 23 crore. A judicial committee appointed by the state cabinet subsequently gave Khadse a clean chit but he couldn’t go back to the old status in the party. Following the allegations, under the party pressure, he resigned from the Maharashtra cabinet in June 2016. Soon afterward, an ethical hacker claimed that Khadse was in touch with fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim, who he said had been calling the BJP leader from Pakistan. This sent him further down in the political abyss.