Embattled revenue minister Eknath Khadse resigned on Saturday over allegations of corruption and misconduct that had put chief minister Devendra Fadnavis under mounting pressure to act against the BJP strongman from north Maharashtra.
Sources said Khadse, 63, met Fadnavis at the chief minister’s official residence in Malabar Hill around 11.30 am and submitted his resignation.
The move came after the BJP’s central leadership sent him a clear signal that he had no option but to quit over the charges that include irregularities in a land deal in Pune and calls allegedly received from mob boss Dawood Ibrahim’s residence in Karachi on his mobile phone. One of his aides was also arrested for seeking bribe.
The slew of allegations against Khadse had come as the first major political crisis for the 17-month-old BJP government led by Fadnavis.
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.
The top BJP leadership including party president Amit Shah is also understood to have favoured Khadse’s removal in view of the gravity of the charges.
However, Khadse remained defiant till Friday evening and even started playing the OBC card to prevent action against him.
The decision of the party leadership came after Fadnavis submitted a report on the allegations to Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
Sources said Fadnavis was in favour of removing Khadse but wanted the party leadership to take a call considering the political implications of the decision.
Khadse is a prominent OBC leader in Maharashtra and also part of the top brass of the party in state.
His supporters had also toned down their protests in the past few days after realising that the party leadership was not impressed with the threats of sending resignations in support of the minister.
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.
(With inputs from agencies)