Eknath Khadse quits: Cabinet to expand after PM Modi returns to India
Khadse has been accused of misusing his position so he could buy a plot at MIDC in Pune for Rs 3.75 crore instead of the market value of Rs 40 crore.
Facing heat over a string of corruption charges including irregularities in a land deal in MIDC, Pune, Maharashtra Revenue Minister and senior most BJP leader in the state Eknath Khadse resigned on Saturday. Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao accepted his resignation on the recommendation of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Now that Khadse is out of the Cabinet, Fadnavis has ordered a retired High Court judge to conduct an inquiry into the allegations.
Khadse has been accused of misusing his position so he could buy in the name of his wife and son-in-law, a plot at MIDC in Pune for Rs 3.75 crore when the market value of the plot was around Rs 40 crore.
Khadse had earlier demanded that an inquiry be instituted and proof of these allegations be provided. Now, Fadnavis has decided to appoint a retired HC judge to conduct the inquiry. Sources told Firstpost that if he is found to be not guilty at the end of the inquiry, then he will be reinstated into the Cabinet.
Fadnavis has called an urgent meeting of all ministers, including ministers of state, to finalise the code of conduct for ministers and probable discussion of Cabinet expansion. The meeting is slated to take place on Monday. Highly placed sources confirm that once Prime Minister Narendra Modi is back in India at the end of his five-nation tour, the green signal will be given to Fadnavis for expanding his Cabinet.
Khadse held 10 portfolios in the Cabinet. These included revenue, agriculture, excise, dairy development, wakf, minorities development, animal husbandry, fisheries, and relief and rehabilitation. Cabinet expansion is necessary as it is expected that these portfolios will be distributed among at least five MLAs.
Meanwhile, Congress' Ashok Chavan said that Khadse's resignation is not good enough and that the government may very well sabotage any investigation it orders. “We want a high level judicial inquiry into the scams involving Khadse. We don’t trust this government," he said.
Former AAP leader Anjali Damania, who went on a hunger strike three days ago to demand Khadse's resignation, said this was an initial victory. AAP national spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon said, “We are relieved that finally, after he was totally exposed in past few weeks, BJP removed Khadse from office.”
However, Khadse defended himself at a press conference and said that he was the one who asked Fadnavis to accept his resignation till the probe is complete. News of his resignation came to be known minutes after Khadse met Fadnavis at the latter’s residence.
"I have been saying since day one that if any allegation is proved against me then I will leave politics," Khadse told the media at the state BJP headquarters at Nariman Point. "I am not talking about resignation but talking about leaving my 40 years of political career. In 40 years this isn't first time I am seeing media trial. Since day one I have said that whatever allegations you are making please give all documents. They haven't been able to prove the allegations levelled against me."
Speaking about the controversial land deal due to which he had to quit, Khadse said, "It is being claimed that MIDC has acquired the land, but MIDC has not even given compensation to the land owner in the last 48 years. State government rules itself state that once the compensation is not paid to the land owner within two years of the land being acquired then the land goes back to the owner."
"I have asked the chief minister to initiate inquiry not only via Anti-Terrorism Squad — the enquiry is ongoing — but also enquire against all those who tried to defame me my name. Who went ahead and took help of a Pakistani agency? Unless and until I don't come clean I will not take these posts again. As a moral responsibility I have resigned on my own. I also thank BJP as a party who stood by me," said the former revenue minister.
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