If celebrations by Shiv Sainiks in Jalgaon is any indication, the Sena may find it hard to stifle its glee over Eknath Khadse’s exit from the state cabinet on charges of corruption, said political observers.
According to reports, Sena activists fired crackers and distributed sweets in Jalgaon as Khadse announced his resignation at a presser on Saturday. Jalgaon is Khadse’s political turf and hometown.
The Sena could never get along with Khadse as he was seen by Sainiks as the one who was chiefly instrumental in rupturing the BJP-Sena poll alliance in September 2014. The BJP-Sena parted ways for the legislative assembly elections, triggering bitterness between the two allies. The latest Khadse row will cast a shadow on the already fragile BJP-Sena ties in the run-up to the 2017 Mumbai civic elections, said analysts. Many in the Sena are of the view that the BJP may in the coming few months cleverly use its publicity machinery to target one of the Sena ministers on the issue of corruption to get even with Matoshree.
On the other hand, the BJP is worried that the Sena, which is all set to contest the Mumbai civic election on its own, would play up the Khadse story to draw home the point to Mumbai voters that BJP’s claim of being a party with zero tolerance for graft is hollow. The Jalgaon episode is seen in political circles as the beginning of a long-drawn battle between the saffron siblings in the run-up to the BMC elections.
Sanjay Raut offered a stiff upper-lip reaction on Saturday on Khadse’s exit from the state cabinet. Talking to mediapersons, the senior Sena leader said his party sympathised with the disgraced BJP minister.
“We have sympathy for Khadse. However, it is a tad strange that Khadse had to put in his papers when (state BJP president) Raosaheb Danve had given him a clean chit,” he said. “It would be better if someone (in the BJP) clarifies on this issue,” Raut added. Stating that Khadse’s resignation was “inevitable”, Raut promptly recalled how BJP had in the past sought resignations of many of its political rivals on the corruption issue.