Khadse resigns, retired judge to probe corruption charges

First casualty: Maharashra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse leaving Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis’s residence after putting in his resignation. — Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh  

Facing heat over a string of corruption charges, including a questionable land deal, the Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse resigned on Saturday, making him the first BJP casualty since the Narendra Modi government came to power promising clean governance.

Accepting his resignation — which came two days after BJP president Amit Shah sought a report — Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said a retired High Court judge will probe the allegations against Mr. Khadse. His resignation was formally accepted by Maharashtra governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao.

Mr. Khadse, 63, a six-time MLA from Muktainagar constituency in Jalgaon in north Maharashtra, strongly denied all allegations and expressed confidence that a probe will clear him of any wrong-doing.

Though his exit seemed imminent after Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari called him and told him to obey the party’s decision, the political drama began on Saturday morning, with Mr. Khadse calling on Mr. Fadnavis at his official residence, Varsha, around 11.15 a.m. Forests Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, Cultural Affairs Minister Vinod Tawade and State BJP chief Raosaheb Danve were also present at the meeting.

Emerging from the meeting, Mr. Khadse said he was a victim of a media trial: “I have never faced a media trial in 40 years of my political career. I asked those making the allegations to provide evidence, and they have not been able to give. I ask them today to provide evidence when the probe is conducted, and if these are claims are found to be untrue, I have urged the Chief Minister to take action against them.”

Multiple allegations

Mr Khadse has been battling multiple allegations since October 2015, when Jalgaon police inspector Ashok Sadre, who took action against illegal sand mining mafia operations by one Sagar Chaudhari, committed suicide. The Aam Aadmi Party had alleged that Sadre committed suicide under pressure due to Chaudhari’s close links with Mr. Khadse. Mr. Khadse denied the charges.

Mr. Khadse was in the news again after Gajanan Patil, a personal assistant of the Minister, was arrested for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 30 crore for giving an NOC for 37 hectares of revenue land required by an educational institution in Thane district.

The AAP also alleged that calls were made by a phone registered in the name of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s wife to Mr. Khadse’s mobile numbe. This was unearthed by a Jalgaon-based hacker Manish Bhangale.

Last month, a Pune-based builder, Hemant Gavande, lodged a complaint alleging that Mr. Khadse had helped his own family corner a three-acre plot belonging to the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) worth Rs 65 crore at the throwaway price of Rs 3.75 crore.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 8:15:05 AM |

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