In a new twist to the Gadkari saga, two men – Manohar Panse and Pandurang alias Kawdu Zhade – who have been in the news for their association with BJP president Nitin Gadkari, are missing from Gadkari wada – Gadkari's Mahal residence where they worked for over 15 hours every day.
Panse is Gadkari's driver and Zhade is his trusted aide who does the odd-jobs. Both Panse and Zhade figured in media reports as being among the directors of the firms that invested Gadkari-promoted Purti Power and Sugar Ltd.
Though Zhade was not traceable, Panse, in a talk over the cell phone, claimed that he was no more a director of any of the companies. "I was director of three companies earlier. But not anymore," he said.
When asked how he generated funds to buy shares being a driver, Panse (52) said that he did so from the VRS money he got from National Consumers' Cooperative Federation Ltd. According to Panse, he left the Federation job in 1996, but his association with Gadkari dates back to 1994. "I am now in Wardha and busy with Navratri aarati and unable to tell you details," a disturbed Panse said while replying to volley of questions.
When asked about his contribution for purchasing shares, he said that he was not sure about the exact money. He could not tell how much VRS money he got from the Federation.
Panse's name also figured earlier when a body of seven-year-old Yogita Thakre was found in Gadkari's car at Gadkari Wada in Mahal locality in Nagpur a few years ago.
The body was found by Panse when he was about to leave Gadkari residence for the Nagpur airport to pick up the BJP chief who was coming from Mumbai.
In an affidavit, Panse had said he was Gadkari's driver. Panse was a key witness in the Yogita death case.
It is still not known how Panse and Zhade were made directors of Purti's investor companies. In fact, between 2009 and 2011, Panse was director in six other companies as well.
When contracted, Dudhir Diwe, the managing director of Purti Power and Sugar Ltd, admitted that Panse was Gadkari's driver, but clarified that he is now a director of only one company.