Maharashtra Minister Eknath Khadse Resigns Amid Twin Scandals

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Mumbai:  Eknath Khadse, the most senior minister in the Maharashtra government, has resigned amid twin scandals over an illicit land deal and his cellphone allegedly appearing in the call records of most-wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim.

Mr Khadse’s resignation came after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi late on Thursday night, hours after he gave a report to BJP chief Amit Shah on the controversy. “I have submitted a factual report to Amit Shah on Khadse. The party will take necessary action,” said Mr Fadnavis, who also briefed the Prime Minister on preliminary findings on the charges that Mr Khadse faces, sources said.

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Amit Shah had sought the Khadse report from Mr Fadnavis in keeping with what the BJP stresses as its “zero-tolerance for corruption” policy. Sources indicated that the party is likely to take action against Mr Khadse, though only after legislative council elections to be held in the state on June 10, as it wants to avoid dissent from the minister’s loyalists. Sources had said the “minimum action” that Mr Khadse faced was losing his revenue portfolio.

The BJP, sources had said, 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 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 four crores, when the market value of the plot is reportedly 30 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.

Maharashtra’s Anti-Terror squad is investigating the alleged calls to the minister from Dawood Ibrahim. Mr Khadse has denied any links to Dawood Ibrahim. Mr Khadse’s resignation had been demanded not just by the opposition Congress but also a senior leader of the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s ally.

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