NEW DELHI: Troubles mounted for senior Maharashtra minister Eknath Khadse on Thursday as the BJP took serious note of corruption allegations against him following a meeting between chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and party chief Amit Shah in Delhi.
Fadnavis also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a day the Opposition turned the heat on the revenue minister, asking for his resignation because of alleged financial irregularities in a land deal.
“Khadse shud resign. All allegations against him shud be probed,” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
But despite the clamour, Shah is unlikely to immediately sack Khadse, whose support is crucial for Maharashtra legislative council polls on June 10. The BJP has fielded six candidates while it has the numbers for just five. “Khadse’s support is crucial to win these seats. At least a dozen MLAs are loyal to him,” a BJP office-bearer said.
Fadnavis also appeared to hint at a wait-and-watch approach, telling reporters he supported a factual report on the issue to Shah. “The party will direct whatever appropriate action has to be taken ahead.”
Khadse is accused of buying an industrial plot from the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation at less than one sixth the market price and allegedly flouting rules.
Khadse is also in the news for allegedly receiving calls on his mobile phone from fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim.
Allegations against the minister – who holds a number of important portfolios and is considered the number 2 in the Fadnavis cabinet – is an embarrassment for the BJP. The party repeatedly underlined the corruption-free image of its central government during its two-year anniversary celebrations recently.
BJP sources said Shah is unlikely to take action immediately and will proceed once the dust settles. “Shah has left it to Fadnavis to sort out the matter. He has taken strong note of the case and is keeping a close watch,” a source close to the BJP chief told HT.
But the tactic prompted ally Shiv Sena to highlight the BJP’s promise of corruption-free governance and ask Fadnavis to comment.
“The BJP should maintain moral standards. We will take a stand on the issue once the CM speaks on the demand for Khadse’s resignation,” Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, adding that the CM should take a stand if Khadse has not done anything wrong.
The allegations appear to have sparked discontent even within the BJP. Former Mumbai commissioner and current Lok Sabha MP from Uttar Pradesh, Satyapal Singh, said a decision should be taken soon.
“The way the matter has been brought to light in the media, some facts can be highlighted. With new facts out, Eknath Khadse is under a cloud of suspicion and the party is sure to take a decision soon,” he said.