MUMBAI: In a veiled attack on former CM Devendra Fadnavis for below-par performance of the BJP in the Maharashtra assembly polls, senior leader Eknath Khadse on Wednesday blamed certain leaders of the party for the defeat of his daughter Rohini and former minister Pankaja Munde.
He demanded action against the leaders responsible for the BJP's shrunken tally of 105 seats, down from 122 in 2014.
In another veiled jibe at the former chief minister, Khadse said the BJP would have retained power had the party agreed to former ally Shiv Sena's demand for sharing the post of chief minister in new government.
When asked by reporters whether he was targetting Fadnavis, Khadse said "I am talking about the person who led the entire poll campaign and the strategy. I do not have to take anyone's name at this moment as people are smart enough".
The BJP had denied ticket to Khadse for the assembly polls held in October this year, but instead fielded his daughter from his home turf Muktainagar in Jalgaon district.
However, Rohini Khadse lost to Shiv Sena rebel Chandrakant Patil.
Munde was defeated by her cousin and NCP rival Dhananjay Munde of the NCP from Parli in Beed district.
"I and Pankaja are of the opinion that some BJP leaders tried to defeat her and Rohini. I have informed state BJP unit chief Chandrakant Patil about it," Khadse said.
Khadse was forced to resign as revenue minister of the erstwhile BJP government in 2016 over land grab allegations.
Pankaja, daughter of late BJP stalwart Gopinath Munde, is also in sulk since her loss in the bitterly contested elections.
On Monday, Pankaja had removed the word "BJP" from her twitter bio, triggering speculation about her next political move.
However, on Tuesday she said defection was not in her blood and that she would not leave the BJP.
"If leaders like Chandrashekhar Bavankule, Vinod Tawde, Prakash Mehta and I were not kept out of the poll fray and had been involved more actively, the results would have been better than the current tally of the BJP," Khadse said.
In another veiled jibe at Fadnavis, Khadse said a person cannot be selective while taking credit for the BJP's victory and shrugging off responsibilities after biting the dust.
"Like in victory, the responsibility should be shared in defeat also," Khadse said, adding that those responsible for the BJP's below-par performance should be held accountable and face action.
Without naming Fadnavis, Khadse said, "I am talking about the person who has taken decisions before the October 21 polls that resulted into the BJP losing more seats".
Khadse also referred to the BJP's decision to not accept Sena's demand for a rotational chief ministership, which resulted into Uddhav Thackeray-led party joining hands with the NCP and the Congress to form a coalition government.
"Had we taken a couple of steps back and held proper discussions with the Sena the saffron alliance would have retained the government because the mandate was for the BJP-Sena to rule," he said.
After the poll results were announced on October 24, Fadnavis had demanded Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's claim that the BJP leadership had "agreed" for rotational chief ministership.
Khadse also hit at Fadnavis' close aide and former minister Girish Mahajan, who also hails from Jalgaon district.
Mahajan was given the responsibility for campaigning in North Maharashtra where the BJP suffered a drubbing.
"Whoever was appointed by BJP in my area should be held responsible for the party's loss. These people have taken decisions and they should be held accountable," Khadse added.
The senior BJP leader also hinted at the leaders in sulk like him joining hands.
"You do not have take efforts for it. It happens naturally," he said while responding to a query on whether leaders feeling sidelined by the party would form a pressure group.
Khadse had served as leader of the opposition after the BJP won more seats than the Sena in the 2009 assembly polls.
He was also instrumental in the spread of the BJP in North Maharashtra region.
After the BJP won a maximum number of seats in 2014 elections, the prominent OBC leader was tipped to be the next chief minister, but the party picked young Fadnavis.
When asked whether OBC leaders are feeling ignored by the BJP, Khadse said, "Unfortunately, such portrayal seems to have some truth in it. Several OBC and other mass leaders lost in the October polls. A better planning would have helped the BJP win more than 105 seats (which it won in October polls)," he claimed.
Maharashtra BJP chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said Khadse is an outspoken leader who is known for speaking his mind.
"Khadse has been in contact with BJP leaders and there is no question of the party sidelining him," he said.
Bhandari also rejected Khadse's claims that some OBC leaders were being ignored by the BJP.
"Among the total 288 MLAs in the Legislative Assembly, the highest number of OBC MLAs are from the BJP, which has won 105 seats (in the 2019 assembly polls).
There should not be any doubt about the party leadership turning its back on certain communities," Bhandari added.