- BJP drops 3 top leaders from its list of candidates in Maharashtra
- Ex-minister Eknath Khadse, Vinod Tawde, Prakash Mehta benched
- Mr Khadse was once seen as BJP's Number 2 in Maharashtra
The ruling BJP has dropped three top leaders from its list of candidates for the October 21 Maharashtra election. Former minister Eknath Khadse, once the party's second most important leader in Maharashtra, cabinet minister Vinod Tawde and another former minister Prakash Mehta have been benched.
State minister Chandrakant Bawankule who had refused to accept the party's decision to change his seat has been left out of the list; he filed his nomination today as an Independent candidate. Former Mumbai BJP president Raj Purohit, an MLA once caught on camera criticizing the BJP leadership, has been dropped and his seat is going to Rahul Narvekar, who quit the Shiv Sena, joined the NCP and is now headed to the BJP.
The choice of Mr Narvekar is linked to the BJP's attempts to reel in his father-in-law and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ramraje Nimbalkar. Sources say Mr Nimbalkar has said he will come on board only if the party fields his son-in-law from the Colaba seat.
Eknath Khadse's exclusion has been seen as most unexpected. He was once seen as the BJP's number two leader in Maharashtra after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Mr Khadse had represented Muktainagar, his home turf in north Maharashtra, since 1991. Ending days of speculation, the BJP today named his daughter Rohini Khadse for the Muktainahar constituency, making it clear he would not contest this time but placating him by choosing someone from his family.
Mr Khadse has been sidelined for some time by the BJP amid charges of irregularities when he was a minister in the Devendra Fadnavis government. He had to resign as revenue minister in 2016.
Mr Khadse has emphatically denied reports that he is heading to the opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar.
"I've not met or had any conversation with Sharad Pawar for a year. I don't know why is he spreading the false story of me joining NCP or even contacting him. I don't know what responsibility party the BJP will bestow on me but I'll remain dedicated worker of the party," Mr Khadse said this morning.
Nervous after being left out of many lists, the 67-year-old had filed his nomination papers from his seat earlier this week as a candidate. He is likely to withdraw his candidature.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mr Khadse had said, "I had told workers and others in the past too that I will contest the election if my health was in good shape."
He added: "I am the worker who follows orders of the party. I have obeyed the party over the past 40-42 years. The orders may have been bitter for me, against my will, but I have followed the orders."