Maharashtra’s Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse on Saturday finally gave in to the massive pressure created by the BJP central leadership and resigned from all ministerial portfolios but not without demonstrating a show of strength at a press conference later in the day.
“I had said since day one that if any allegation is proved against me then I will leave politics. 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 am saying that whatever allegations you are making please give all documents. They haven’t been able to prove the allegations levelled against me,” Khadse said at a press conference held at the Maharashtra BJP headquarters at Nariman Point in Mumbai.
“I have asked the chief minister to initiate inquiry not only via Anti-Terrorism Squad — which 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 minister.
The presence of top functionaries of the Maharashtra BJP including state party chief Ravsaheb Dadarao Danve, Education Minister Vinod Tawde, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, Co-operation Minister Chandrakant Bacchu Patil and Housing Minister Prakash Mehta at the press conference was perhaps a strong message to the top brass to reflect on the clout he still commands within the party.
“Since the last few days, there have been allegations against Eknath Khadse. There is no truth in these allegations. We are confident about it. It is a move to defame the BJP. Khadse himself asked for proof on the allegations, but no one could give any proof. Khadse said he would want to resign until allegations are proved wrong,” Danve told reporters.
On Friday, before Khadse’s resignation, his tough stand had put Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in a fix. As he was the seniormost minister in the state cabinet and also the OBC face of the BJP, the chief minister had reportedly asked BJP President Amit Shah to allow Khadse an honourable exit.
By making Khadse quit, the BJP central leadership sought to reaffirm its “zero-tolerance for corruption policy”. For a state like Maharashtra, where caste politics rules the roost in power games, it was expected that it won’t be an easy road ahead for Fadnavis to exercise his authority on the matter.
Fadnavis is from the Brahmin community, while Khadse belongs to the Levedar Patil community, which is part of the OBC list. Gopinath Munde and Khadse were the only senior OBC leaders in the party. After Munde’s death two years ago, Khadse emerged as the OBC face both in the BJP and the Maharashtra government. Apart from Khadse, state BJP president Ravsaheb Danve, state ministers Pankaja Munde, Vinod Tawde and MLC Pandurang Phundkar are all from the OBC category. In the Brahmin camp, Fadnavis and ministers Girish Bapat and Girish Dattatray Mahajan are among the prominent faces.
Saturday morning was a busy one for the former Maharashtra revenue minister as he had a chat with Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. The union minister told him in no uncertain terms that he had no other option left but to quit from the cabinet in order to prevent further damage to the party’s image. The union minister, who left for Goa later asked Khadse to meet Fadnavis and submit his resignation.
Recently, Khadse’s close aide Gajanand Patil was arrested for allegedly demanding a bribe over a Kalyan land deal. Pune-based builder Hemant Gawande also filed a FIR accusing Khadse of grabbing plots owned by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, or MIDC. Apart from these alleged dubious land deals, what has proved to be the biggest blot on Khadse’s profile, is his alleged involvement in the calls made to gangster Dawood Ibrahim in Pakistan.
Speculations over Khadse’s fate reached a crescendo on Thursday after Fadnavis submitted a detailed report to Shah and also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi late in the evening.
In April 2016, the alleged sale of government-owned land to Khadse’s wife and son-in-law for about Rs three crore, at a time when the market value of the plot is estimated to be Rs 40 crore, had raised eyebrows. However, Khadse has maintained that the land is not owned by the government and that it was bought from a private party. The minister also said he paid the stamp duty on the market value of the plot.
Earlier, Khadse denied any links with Dawood, stating that though the cellphone number that crops up in Dawood Ibrahim’s records does belong to him, it was not in use for the last year, and that phone records can be manipulated through software.
With the RSS wanting Khadse out from the Maharashtra cabinet, it was in all likelihood a matter of time or a mere formality for the Muktainagar MLA to lose his ministerial berth, sources had confirmed. However, there was also a section within the BJP who only want Khadse’s wings to be clipped and not have him be dropped entirely from the cabinet.
Source From Firstpost
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