Eknath Khadse, the most senior minister in the Maharashtra government, may find it hard to hold onto his job amid twin scandals over an illicit land deal and his cellphone appearing in the call records of most-wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim.
BJP chief Amit Shah, in keeping with what the party stresses as its “zero-tolerance for corruption” policy, has asked the Maharashtra branch of the party for a detailed report on the charges against Mr Khadse, who is the state’s Revenue Minister.
Mr Shah has ordered Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to “handle the Khadse issue” at the earliest, a senior source told
The Chief Minister met Mr Khadse on Monday for a detailed discussion. “It was expected he may resign on Monday, but he didn’t. The central BJP is mounting pressure. He will have to give in. There is little room for defiance now,” said a senior BJP source on the condition of anonymity.
Signaling the scale of the crisis, Mr Khadse skipped a cabinet meeting yesterday, and has, since Monday, stopped using his official lal-batti or red beacon car.
BJP sources say that the party feels that the allegations – raised first by a hacker and then the Aam Aadmi Party – of Mr Khadse being phoned last year by Dawood Ibrahim, who lives in in Pakistan, are not substantial.
The bigger concern is the sale of government-owned land in April to Mr Khadse’s wife and son-in-law for about three crores, when the market value of the plot is reportedly 23 crores. Mr Khadse has said the land was not owned by the government, that he bought it from a private party, and that he paid the stamp duty or tax on the market value of the plot which he says proves that the deal was above-board.
The Special Crime Branch in Maharashtra, assigned to investigate the calls from Dawood Ibrahim, says that so far, it has found no evidence against Mr Khadse. Opposition parties say that while Mr Khadse is in office, a fair and independent inquiry is unlikely.
Manish Bhangale, the hacker who claims to have uncovered Dawood Ibrahim’s phone records has asked the Bombay High Court to grant him security and order a CBI inquiry into the documents he has submitted.
Mr Khadse has denied any links to Dawood Ibrahim, wanted for some of the worst terror attacks in India.