Trouble looms large for Maharashtra revenue minister Eknath Khadse. While Khadse and his family members are firefighting allegations of misuse of power in a land deal, reports on Monday said that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had summoned the senior BJP minister.
A delegation of Congress ministers also met the Maharashtra Governor on Monday and demanded the minister's resignation over the land deal and his involvement in calls made to gangster Dawood Ibrahim in Pakistan.
Khadse recently had said nothing materialised on the acquisition of the land in last four decades. He had also contended that purchase transaction and acquisition were two separate legal processes. The alleged involvement of the minister in buying a plot owned by Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) near Pune, seems to have isolated him, as party sources claimed that it would be difficult for them to defend Khadse further as the land title was not clear.
According to government sources speaking to The Indian Express, Khadse held a meeting with officials from the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and the revenue department at which the compensation to be given to the original owner under the state’s Land Acquisition Act was discussed. The meeting was held in the third week of March this year.
However, in an exclusive interview to India Today, Khadse said: "People are saying that I have purchased land worth Rs 30-40 crore, but where is the proof? Show me the proof, and I will not only resign from my post but also from my political career."
A Pune-based construction professional Hemant Gavande had recently accused Khadse of purchasing the three-acre land in Bhosari for a throwaway price at approximately Rs 3.75 crore from the original owner in the name of his wife Mandakini and son-in-law Girish Chaudhary. Gavande claimed that the market value of the land was Rs 40 crore.
Gavande had alleged that the land was purchased on 28 April, 2016 from the original owner Abbas Ukani, a resident of West Bengal, keeping its present owner, MIDC, in the dark.
Khadse had denied changing reservation of the MIDC plot at Bhosari because acquisition process was in progress.
In a statement issued in Mumbai on 27 May, the minister had said, "Forty years have passed and there is neither any compensation paid nor any hearing taken place in the case of land acquisition by the MIDC". "The original owner of the land, Abbas Rasoolbhai Ukani, had filed a writ petition in the High Court for vacating the claim of the MIDC on his land and restoring the same to him again.
"Ukani had also demanded finalising the land acquisition process and payment of the compensation to him in respect of the land acquisition verdict," the statement said.
According to a source, BJP president Amit Shah was believed to have sent an indirect message to Khadse to remain quiet and desist from making statements in the media.
Meanwhile, a Gujarat-based person, who claims to have hacked the call records of Dawood Ibrahim, on Monday filed a petition in the Bombay High Court seeking protection for himself and a CBI probe against Khadse for alleged calls between him and the underworld don. The High Court, however, said there was no urgency for a vacation bench to hear the petition.
The Aam Aadmi Party had recently demanded the ouster of Khadse, alleging that calls were made from Dawood's residence in Karachi to his mobile phone, a charge the minister rubbished as "baseless" saying the phone number was not in use for last one year.
Khadse's alleged involvement in the above-mentioned cases has put the BJP in a tricky position. Despite the party's image in the state taking a beating over Khadse's involvement, reports had earlier said that CM Fadnavis will be reluctant to act against the revenue minister because the controversial minister is a Jalgaon strongman and enjoys a support base in the district. Party functionaries were also wary of Khadse because he was capable of "opening the floodgates of allegations against other ministers in the government facing charges."
"Khadse has a strong base in north Maharashtra and he has led the party efficiently in the legislature while we were in the Opposition. Such leaders are strong enough to get themselves elected, but they can influence election in 10 other constituencies as well," Hindustan Times quoted a party functionary as saying.
Another key reason for the party keeping mum on allegations of corruption is that it will give reason for the Opposition to level charges against the BJP. According to sources quoted by PTI, the BJP and the Shiv Sena won the Maharashtra assembly elections on a corruption plank and taking cognition of Khadse's alleged involvement in shady land deals will be an admission of crime.
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Updated Date: May 30, 2016 19:25:16 IST