Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Minister Gulabrao Patil on Sunday lent further credence to the speculation of estranged senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Eknath Khadse’s possible defection, remarking that it was true that Mr. Khadse would be changing his political colours soon.

Mr. Patil, an MLA from the Jalgaon Rural constituency and Minister of State for Water Supply and Sanitation, said he was not aware of which party the BJP leader would eventually join or of whom he was in touch with.

“While I do not know who Eknath Khadse is in touch with at the moment, it certainly is true that he will change his party,” said Mr. Patil, while responding to questions whether the disgruntled Mr. Khadse would be joining Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) or the Sena.

Since the past few days, rumours have been swirling thick and fast that Mr. Khadse would be entering the NCP fold. It was even rumoured that Mr. Khadse would be meeting with Mr. Pawar while he was in Mumbai recently. The BJP leader, however, refused to comment on the matter after his return to Jalgaon on Sunday.

Sena leaders like Abdul Sattar, Uday Samant and Mr. Patil himself, have been urging Mr. Khadse, a stalwart leader from north Maharashtra, to join the Sena.

After being denied a ticket in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly polls and following the defeat of his daughter Rohini Khadse in the same election, Mr. Khadse has been vocal about his disenchantment with his party.

Since the conclusion of the Assembly polls, a major schism has emerged within the Maharashtra BJP leadership with the top brass fearing a possible intra-party revolt by notable OBC leaders led by Mr. Khadse, former ministers Pankaja Munde and Prakash Mehta, and other leaders who were either denied a ticket or suffered upset defeats in the election.

Mr. Khadse was reportedly upset with then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, the BJP’s leader in the State, for his ‘authoritarian style’ of running the party and eliminating potential ‘rivals’ in a Machiavellian fashion.

At the time, the OBC leaders had blamed Mr. Fadnavis for engineering their defeats and denying them tickets. Mr. Khadse has consistently maintained that there had been a ‘conspiracy’ by certain leaders in the State BJP unit to ensure the defeats of Ms. Munde and his daughter, Rohini, and that the move was aimed at finishing off his political career.

Since then, rumours have been circulating of his potential defection to either the Sena or the NCP.

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