Tainted Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse’s fate will be decided by the BJP high command. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis submitted a report on the allegations that Khadse faces to party chief Amit Shah in New Delhi yesterday even as pressure is mounting from the Opposition parties and from a section of the BJP to sack the minister.
Anti-corruption activist Anjali Damania (centre) begins a hunger strike at Azad Maidan yesterday, demanding the resignation of Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse. Pic/PTI
Khadse has repeatedly refused to quit on moral grounds. His supporters are conducting a show of strength in north Maharashtra and Mumbai to prevent action against him.
Eknath Khadse has repeatedly refused to quit on moral grounds. File pic
Fadnavis told reporters that he has handed over the report, which was demanded by the party. “Now, the party will take a decision,” he said after meeting Shah. The CM was expected to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well late on Thursday night.
Fadnavis has been in a fix over the issue because of the case’s serious nature and the involvement of the party’s most senior leader in Maharashtra.
Khadse had been in the reckoning for the CM’s post. He has never shied away from making public his ambition to reach the highest office. Khadse has been upset ever since Fadnavis was preferred over him in 2014.
Khadse had met Fadnavis on Monday to present his side and all documents related to allegations.
Sources in the BJP said the report has looked into all accusations levelled against Khadse. They said if Khadse is not sacked now, he may lose some important departments when the cabinet is expanded. “The party will have to be very cautious in taking any call on Khadse because of his large political clout. His supporters are up in arms and have been demanding protection for him,” said a senior BJP leader.
On the other hand, a section of the BJP wants Khadse to stay away from the minister’s office and avoid further damage to the party. “He should come back to the cabinet once the inquiry absolves him of all charges. Since he claims he is not guilty, he should show some political maturity,” said a senior BJP legislator.
Shoring up support
The state BJP has said it supports the minister and has dubbed the allegations baseless. Yesterday, it even asked ally Shiv Sena to restrain its leaders, such as MP Sanjay Raut, from making any unwarranted statement on the BJP’s internal matter. Earlier in the day, Raut had said that Khadse should quit on moral grounds and that the BJP lacked decision-making.
In the eye of a storm
Khadse is accused of being in touch with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. An ethical hacker from Gujarat has alleged that calls were made to Khadse from Ibrahim’s Karachi home. Earlier this month, the state ACB had arrested an alleged Khadse aide, Gajanan Patil, for demanding a bribe of Rs 30 crore for land allotment.
Another charge that Khadse faces, which the party finds hard to defend, is that he facilitated his family in purchasing a government-owned land in Bhosari, Pune, in April this year. The government has said the land was acquired for setting up industrial units.