For a party that boasted of it being a “Party with a difference”, one which wanted to ensure “Congress Mukta Bharat” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi who recently boasted of not a blemish of corruption being levelled against his government, today finds his party's state government in Maharashtra rocked by the allegations of corruption and dubious selection of rank outsiders as candidates for Legislative Council elections. More than the Congress being in a self-destruct mode, it is those punch drunk of power in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in an inebriated state are hell bent on pressing the self-destruct button.
More than the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led opposition grilling the BJP led government over corruption, thanks to ego clashes and infighting within the BJP has provided a regular cannon fodder for the media, which it now turns around and accuses of launching a media trial in Eknath Khadse's case. What is baffling for anybody is why on earth would a seasoned politician like Khadse having more than four decades of experience would knowingly buy a land mired in controversy.
For the party which prides in labeling itself as a “Party with a difference” and one which claims to set high standards of probity in public life, should learn no lessons from its previous 1995-99 government where then ministers like Shobhatai Fadnavis who were accused of corruption in Tur Dal purchase, or its late former president Bangaru Laxman who was caught in a sting operation accepting bribes. By unexpectedly taking the scalp of Khadse the BJP has opened a Pandora's box whereby the emboldened opposition will now seek more action against those who in the recent past have faced allegations of corruption or wrong-doing.
Or is it a terse warning to them that they could meet the same fate as Khadse did for nursing an ambition to become a Chief Minister? For Fadnavis tough times lie ahead as he faces a rejuvenated opposition at least in the legislative council. There will be no Khadse as the leader of the house in the upper house to assist Fadnavis as he takes on firebrand Congress leader Narayan Rane. Most importantly the BJP is in a minority in the upper house where the experience and support of Khadse could have proved quite handy for Fadnavis.
The farce of judicial investigations be it in the case of Shobhatai Fadnavis, Chhagan Bhujbal (Telgi, Fake Stamps scam) and Ajit Pawar (Rs 70,000 Cr Irrigation scam) will once again be played out in Khadse's case. But the irreparable damage has already been done. On the other hand the Shiv Sena has played a smart move of fielding Rane's one time loyalist Ravindra Phatak, for the Thane Local Authorities seat in the Council. If Phatak does manage to upstage sitting NCP's Deputy Chairman, Vasant Davkhare, it will be an interesting contest to watch in the upper house.
With the exit of Khadse from the upper house, the line of defence for Fadnavis is very thin. The likes of Pravin Darekar, R N Singh both outside imports are no match for the likes of Narayan Rane, Dhananjay Munde and others. The most visible and articulate face of the party in the media, Madhav Bhandari could have been the ideal choice to take on the likes of Rane. But the poor old man has been reduced to being the perennial bridesmaid, thanks again to internal party politics. In the quest of 2017 BMC elections, not just party loyalties but even its defences in the upper house have been compromised. So many non-BJP leaders have been admitted into the party fold made MPs, MLAs and Ministers ignoring the loyalists, one wonders whether its “Congress Mukta Bharat” or “Congressisation of BJP” in process.