MUMBAI: Maharashtra revenue minister Eknath Khadse, who has become controversy’s favourite child in recent times, is battling a series of allegations — from murky land deals to purported phone conversation with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
Despite the BJP government’ s image taking a beating over K hadse, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis appears reluctant to act against the politician who is considered the No 2 in his cabinet.
Sources say Fadnavis has several compulsions to defend the leader even though Khadse was seen as a top contender for his job. In fact, in October 2014 after the B JP won the state elections, the 63-year-old made headlines for making public his disappointment at not being made CM.
At the time, then Opposition leader Khadse had led the BJP’s attack against the Congress-NC P government and was seen as a natural choice for the CM’ s post. But PM Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah handpicked Fadnavis for the top job. Since then, there has been unease between the two top leaders.
However, sources in the BJP say there is reason to defend the senior leader — from the risk of losing favour among supporters of the Jalgaon strongman to opening floodgates of allegations against other ministers in the government facing charges.
“W omen and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde and education minister Vi nod T awde too are facing charges of irregularities and action against Khadse would encourage Opposition parties to target them as well ,” said a senior BJP leader.
In recent times, K hadse has found himself in trouble over the arrest of his aide, Gajanan Patil, for demanding ` 30 crore bribe.
Another reason that many believe has tied the CM’ s hands is Khadse’s stature within the party. “Khadse has a strong base in north Maharashtra and he has led the party efficiently in the legislature while we were in the Opposition ,” said a party functionary, requesting anonymity.
However, whether or not the CM or the party acts against Khadse remains to be seen.