The Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday claimed that Maharashtra revenue minister Eknath Khadse got several calls on his mobile phone from Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar’s Karachi residence in Pakistan.
The seniormost minister in the government, Khadse promptly dismissed the allegation by AAP spokesperson Priti Sharma-Menon as “baseless” even as chief minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered Mumbai Police to investigate the matter.
“Maharashtra minister Eknath Khadse’s number seen in Dawood Ibrahim’s call logs. Its shocking. Minister Eknath Khadse has to resign, otherwise a free and fair investigation can not take place,” Sharma-Menon said in a tweet and later told reporters the same.
She alleged that Khadse received calls from Dawood between September 5, 2015 to April 5, 2016, but the minister refuted the allegation saying his number may have been “cloned” and misused.
“The information about Khadse’s number being in Dawood’s most frequently called numbers was submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office on April 29, but it preferred to turn a blind eye,” Sharma-Menon said.
In a statement, Khadse while admitting that the number in question belonged to him, said it was not in service for the last one year, and furnished a report to the effect from Idea Cellular to the Jalgaon Police earlier this week.
The AAP spokesperson told mediapersons that the incident came to light after a Vadodara-based techie Manish L Bhangale, an ethical hacker, hacked into the call records of four phone numbers registered in the name of the don’s wife Mehjabin Shaikh and detected four Indian numbers on which the don reportedly spoke regularly.
Bhangale checked the details of these numbers to make the shocking discovery that one of these, an Idea mobile phone number, belonged to Khadse on which the call had come from the don’s residence, Sharma-Menon alleged.
She questioned the minister’s claims about the phone being out of service and said techie Bhangale provided evidence showing that Khadse’s number was working till April 2016.
Earlier, she met Fadnavis to demand Khadse’s sacking if Bhangale’s documents were authentic and initiate a fair probe into the matter.
“Bhangale has refuted Khadse’s claim that the number was not in operation... it may be true it was switched off after the story broke. On May 20, Bhangale sent me a recording of the Idea IVRS stating there is no bill for the current month for (Khadse’s No. 9423073667), but the bill was generated on April 23 for Rs.683.22, and the last payment made was Rs.700,” Sharma-Menon pointed out.
“This recording shows that when Khadse says the number is switched off since two years, he lies through his teeth,” she charged.
Bhangale’s hacking also revealed that Khadse had changed his damaged SIM card in April 2016 for which he was charged Rs.50 and it reflects in the bill, meaning the number was still operational, she added.
Explaining how the hacking was done, Sharma-Menon said that Dawood’s wife, Mahjabeen’s number (021-35871719) and address are available on the Internet and Bhangale exposed the call logs through the Pakistan Telecommunications Co. Ltd.
He met Vadodara Police with the data but no investigations were done and later he faxed the details to the PMO on April 29, with a willingness to help.
After Sharma-Menon’s meeting with Fadnavis, Mumbai Police Commissioner D. Padsalgikar called techie Bhangale for details last Thursday, May 19.
“This is a very serious charge and the Maharashtra government must either authenticate or refute Bhangale’s claim and share the findings with the people... Till then, Khadse should resign to ensure a free and fair probe,” Sharma-Menon demanded, adding that the Jalgaon Superintendent of Police is “very close” to the minister due to some favours in the past.