Graft-tainted Maharashtra minister Khadse quits, vows to clear his name
A senior Maharashtra minister at the heart of a raging controversy over alleged corruption and underworld links resigned on Saturday but vowed to clear the blot on his name.india Updated: Jun 04, 2016 16:41 IST
A senior Maharashtra minister at the heart of a raging controversy over alleged corruption and underworld links resigned on Saturday but vowed to clear the blot on his name.
The resignation by revenue minister Eknath Khadse came two days after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met BJP chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi to discuss the issue that has come as the first big political test for the BJP-led government in the state.
The issue also has bigger political connotations for the Modi-led government at the Centre which has made rooting out corruption its biggest agenda and Khadse’s continuation would have been seen as slackening of its resolve.
But the party adopted a two-pronged strategy to tackle the issue – asking Khadse to resign but backing him publicly to ensure that it does not end up losing a powerful OBC leader from north Maharashtra.
A confusion surrounding Khadse’s resignation also fuelled speculations that the party gave him the option of choosing the right time to quit.
Sources said Khadse, 63, put in his papers when he met Fadnavis at the chief minister’s official residence at around 11.30 am. About an hour later, Khadse addressed a press conference in Mumbai to say that he “is now going to resign”.
Khadse is accused of buying a three-acre Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) land in Pune, allegedly at a low price of around Rs 3.75 crore from its original owner in the name of his wife and son-in-law. The market value of the land is reportedly Rs 40 crore.
While one of aides was arrested for seeking bribe, allegations of phone calls made to Khadse’s mobile number from mob boss Dawood Ibrahim’s residence in Karachi also added to the mounting pressure on the senior BJP leader seen was the de-facto number two in the Fadnavis government.
The Congress-led opposition pounced on the allegations against Khadse to highlight what they said was largescale corruption in BJP-ruled states. BJP ally Shiv Sena also demanded that Khadse be forced out of the cabinet.
A defiant Khadse, however, said he has become the victim of a “media trial” and accused the opposition leveling grave charges without any proof.
“I have worked for expansion of BJP for the last 40 years. If anyone can produce concrete proof against me, will quit politics,” Khadse told newsmen on Saturday.
Dubbing as “forged” the purported documents that prove the corruption charges, he termed the entire controversy as a “cheap publicity stunt against me”.
State BJP president Raosaheb Danve too said the allegations were aimed at defaming the BJP and Khadse.
“The BJP is a party of high moral ground.”