Maharashtra’s revenue minister Eknath Khadse has been in the eye of storm over allegations of corruption and misconduct. A land deal by his wife Mandakini and son-in-law Girish Chaudhary involves conflict of interest and quid pro quo.
The row over the land deal could cost Khadse the revenue portfolio — one of the most important departments — in the coming days, said sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Here is all you need to know about Khadse
*Sixty three-year-old Khadse is a prominent leader from Leva Patil, an Other Backward Class (OBC) community that has a strong influence on politics in North Maharashtra. He enjoys the support of at least a dozen BJP MLAs, mostly from north Maharashtra.
*He is also part of the core committee of top BJP leaders in the state that takes decisions on crucial issues. The others in the committee include chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, state BJP president Raosaheb Danve and ministers Sudhir Mungantiwar, Vinod Tawde and Pankaja Munde.
*Hemant Gawande, a Pune-based builder, has alleged that Mandakini Khadse and Girish Chaudhary bought 1.21 hectares of land in an industrial area Bhosari in Pune from its Kolkata-based owner Abbas Ukani for Rs 3.75 crore.
It turned out that Usmani was in legal dispute with the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), a state government body that acquires land and develops industrial estates. Usmani had refused to let MIDC acquire the land.
Khadse’s wife had bought the 1.21 hectares of land for a mere Rs 3.75 crore against the ready reckoner (RR) price of Rs 23 crore. Khadse has countered allegations of undervaluing land bought in Bhosari, but questions have been raised as to how the ready reckoner (RR) – valuation used to decide stamp duty on a real estate transaction – was higher than the declared value of the land.
*State industries minister Subhash Desai told the media that the land was already owned by MIDC while Khadse insisted that Ukani had not accepted the compensation and as such no land transfer had taken place. It is alleged that Khadses would have earned anywhere between Rs 60 crore to Rs 90 crore had they got the compensation now as per the new land acquisition law.
Why Khadse matters to Maharashtra BJP
A frontline leader, Khadse was close to late Gopinath Munde. During the Sena-BJP alliance government tenure, he handled finance, irrigation and higher education departments. As BJP emerged as the main opposition party after 2009 elections, Khadse was made opposition leader in the assembly. He led the opposition attack against the Congress-NCP government during 2009 and 2014 and was seen as a top contender when BJP won in 2014 assembly elections. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah preferred Devendra Fadnavis.
*Due to his influence, Khadse was given the significant revenue portfolio as a minister along with nine other departments. He is considered as the number two in the state cabinet after CM Fadnavis.
Other allegations against Khadse
In May, anti-corruption bureau arrested Gajanan Patil, a BJP worker from Jalgaon and allegedly a close aide of the minister, for seeking a bribe of Rs 30 crore for the transfer of a plot in Thane. Khadse said he had no connection with Patil and said the plot was worth Rs 5 crore. However, the Congress has said that the ready reckoner price of the plot is Rs 226 crore.
Manish Bhangle, an ethical hacker, has alleged that seven calls were made from fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s Karachi residence to Khadse’s mobile phone. Bhangale has moved court demanding a probe in the case.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had recently demanded ouster of Khadse, alleging that calls were made from Dawood’s residence in Karachi to his mobile phone, a charge the minister rubbished as “baseless” saying the phone number was not in use for last one year.
The minister is also accused of links with irrigation contractors. Former AAP member Anjali Damania alleged that Khadse’s wife and relatives were directors of a sugar factory bought by two irrigation contractors who got contracts in Tapi Valley Irrigation Development Corporation in north Maharahshtra. Khadse has refuted all the allegations and said that he has not done anything illegal.