Senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse quit the BJP on Wednesday in what comes as a major jolt to the saffron party in Maharashtra. Khadse will join the NCP on Friday, Maharashtra minister and state NCP chief Jayant Patil said.
"He (Khadse) will join NCP at 2 pm on Friday...this will strengthen the NCP," Patil told reporters.
The former BJP leader told News18, "I have been pushed out of BJP. I am not unhappy with anyone except Devendra Fadnavis... I haven't been given any assurance. I will be entering the party alone. No MLAs or MPs are with me."
The BJP has also confirmed the development and said the party has received Khadse's resignation, as per India Today. BJP spokesperson Keshav Uphadhye has said, "Eknath Khadse was our leader. Till this morning he was in BJP. We were convincing him to stay. We wish him well for the future journey."
Khadse has been disgruntled with the saffron party ever since he was made to resign as a minister in the then BJP-led government in 2016 over corruption allegations.
He was subsequently denied a ticket in the 2019 Assembly elections and his daughter, who was given a ticket from the seat that he represented, also lost the polls.
Khadse had raised concerns that party workers had conspired to sabotage his daughter's campaign.
Devendra Fadnavis destroyed my career: Khadse
Khadse squarely blamed Fadnavis for his decision to quit a party where he had a long career, from holding the post of market committee chairman to minister in the state.
"Devendra Fadnavis destroyed my life. I spent four years in mental tension. I repeatedly said in my speeches that you are forcing me out of the party. I feel sad about quitting the BJP but I had no choice. There were attempts to frame me on false charges of rape," Khadse was quoted as saying by NDTV.
Union minister Raosaheb Danve called the decision unfortunate, claiming that the party would have taken a decision on his political future soon.
"This was a challenging time for Khadse and the party tried its best to convince him. "After this phase, the party would have taken a decision about him, but now "he should remain satisfied where he is going", he said.
According to Hindustan Times, Khadse has been in talks with senior NCP leaders, to seek political rehabilitation. The newspaper quoted his close aides as saying that he is expected to get an MLC seat via the governor's quota.
There were speculations in the last few days that Khadse may quit the BJP and join the Sharad Pawar-led party. But the BJP leadership over the past few days had been stating that Khadse would not quit the party.
According to news agency PTI, on Sunday, when some reporters claimed there was speculation that Khadse may take a 'political decision' on 22 October, former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said there are talks every day of such kind of "muhurat".
Fadnavis on Sunday said, "Such kind of muhurat (auspicious time) is being talked about every day and I will not speak on it."
According to Indian Express, in the recent past, Khadse has accused Fadnavis of ruining his political career. He had accused the former Maharashtra chief minister of plotting against him, as he was a "strong contender to be the first OBC chief ministerial candidate" of BJP.
NCP, Shiv Sena take swipe at BJP
BJP should think why its foundation stones are coming off when it is reaching the pinnacle of success, Uddhav said on Wednesday.
Uddhav said Khadse is "definitely welcome" to the family of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress.
"When someone like Eknathji Khadse, who expanded the BJP's base, leaves the party, then the BJP should think why its foundation stones are coming off when it is reaching the pinnacle of success," Thackeray said.
"Earlier, we (Shiv Sena) left the NDA, the Shiromani Akali Dal also left the alliance recently. Now Khadse is also not with the BJP. Hence, the BJP should think about it. Being an old friend of the BJP, it is my duty to alert them," he said.
NCP minister Patil, who had announced Khadse's entry into his party said that senior leaders were left disillusioned by the BJP and many more could join the NCP in the coming days.
"A lot of people want to join the NCP with him. But there is no need to hold Assembly (by)polls immediately during the COVID-19 period."
"As per my information, a lot of MLAs are in touch with him. But we are going to avoid politics and such elections given the COVID-19 threat is still prevailing," the NCP leader said.
He also said people who have been left "disillusioned" by the BJP and think it cannot help them achieve development will "slowly" join the NCP.
On Monday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said Khadse was earlier the leader of the Opposition and played a huge role in building the BJP in the state.
"One is bound to feel disturbed if his contributions and hard work are not taken note of. He may think why shouldn't he shift to a party which appreciates his work," Pawar said.
With inputs from PTI