Realty bites again in Maharashtra.
Five years after chief minister Ashok Chavan of the Congress lost his job in the Adarsh housing scandal, Eknath Khadse was on Saturday forced to quit as the revenue minister in the BJP-Shiv Sena government over charges of corruption in a land deal.
The two leaders come from rival parties but their exit has a lot in common. They stand accused of misusing the revenue minister’s office to allegedly help relatives profit from prized real estate. While 57-year-old Chavan is the tallest Maratha leader for the Congress, Khadse, 63, is the BJP’s OBC (other backward classes) face in the western state.
Three of Chavan’s relatives, including his mother-in-law, owned flats in the controversial Adarsh housing society in Mumbai’s upscale Colaba locality. The apartments -- meant for army officers, war widows and veterans -- were allotted when Chavan was the revenue minister in the Vilasrao Deshmukh’s cabinet.
The Bombay high court in April ordered the demolition of the illegal 31-storey apartment block for various violations and also asked the Centre and state government to proceed against the politicians and bureaucrats involved in the multi-crore scandal.
Khadse, who as the leader of the opposition exposed several land scams, is accused of misusing his position to execute the sale of a land parcel in Pune in favour of his wife and son-in-law at almost a tenth of the market value.
Late Thursday, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met Prime Minister Narendra Modi after submitting a report on Khadse to BJP chief Amit Shah.
Charges against Khadse coincided with Modi completing two years in office after sweeping to power on the promise of a clean government. The BJP, which says it has zero tolerance for corruption, was struggling to defend its leader.
Khadse sent in his resignation letter before Modi set out on a five-nation tour, including a two-day visit to the US.
Chavan met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on October 30, 2010 and offered to quit but the party delayed the decision as the US President Barack Obama was in India. Chavan resigned on November 9.
When governor C Vidyasagar Rao in February allowed the CBI to prosecute Chavan, the Congress said the alleged scam was a “myth”. The party has continued to back Chavan, its tallest Maratha leader after Deshmukh who died in 2012.
The party asked him to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Nanded. Chavan is one of the only two members the Congress has in the Lower House.
For the BJP, Khadse is the most popular OBC leader after late union minister Gopinath Munde, who was killed in a car accident two years ago. Khadse is from the Leva Patil community that has a strong presence in northern Maharashtra.