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BJP leader Eknath Khadse unlikely to make comeback as minister in Fadnavis’ cabinet

Eknath Khadse was the first BJP minister to lose his job over allegations of graft

mumbai Updated: Aug 11, 2017 13:01 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
Eknath Khadse,BJP,Devendra Fadnavis
Since Khadse’s ouster, more than half a dozen ministers of the Maharashtra cabinet have faced allegations of irregularity or graft.(HT)

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former minister Eknath Khadse, who lost his job following allegations of graft, is unlikely to make a political comeback anytime soon.

The justice Dinkar Zoting commission report, which probed the allegations that Khadse used his clout to help his relatives buy land owned by the industrial department for a fraction of the cost, was not tabled in the Maharashtra legislature on Friday, the last day of the monsoon session.

The state government was expected to table the report submitted on June 30 in both houses. There was speculation that the report had passed strictures against the former minister, but stopped shy of recommending action against him. A section within the BJP had felt that the report would allow Khadse, a veteran leader, to return to the state cabinet.

However, sources close to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told HT that Khadse’s comeback would be problematic for the state owing to the court case pending against the minister and the investigation conducted by the anti-corruption minister.

“We will fall flat on our face if Khadse returns to the cabinet and the high court raps him. The report will now be tabled in the state legislature’s winter session of the state legislature. The report has not given a Khadse a clean chit. As such, the state’s interpretation of it becomes important,’’ said a BJP leader.

Khadse was the first BJP minister to lose his job over allegations of graft. He is accused of using his post as revenue minister to facilitate a land deal in favour of his wife and son-in-law. The industries department had claimed ownership of a three-acre plot in Bhosari near Pune and termed this purchase illegal. The market value of the land was Rs23 crore, but Khadse’s family bought it for Rs3.75 crore. Under the new land acquisition law, the industries department would have to pay the owner of this plot nearly Rs100 crore.

Since Khadse’s ouster, more than half a dozen ministers of Fadnavis’ cabinet have faced allegations of irregularity or graft. However, Fadnavis has shielded all of them. Given Khadse’s seniority and the overall lack of experience among the cabinet members, a section within the party thinks he should be re-inducted before the 2019 polls.

However, the BJP-led government is also battling serious allegations of graft and irregularity against two of its senior ministers, state housing minister Prakash Mehta and Sena’s industries minister Subhash Desai. It thus wants to minimise the hits it has taken.

Fadnavis has announced a probe against Mehta in connection with a slum redevelopment scheme in Tardeo, but is yet to declare the details of this inquiry.

First Published: Aug 11, 2017 13:01 IST