‘None of BJP’s top brass want Eknath Khadse back after ACB FIR’
The possibility of returning to the Devendra Fadnavis-led government now seems distant for senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former revenue minister Eknath Khadse, after the anti-corruption bureau registered an FIR against him and his family on Monday in connection with the alleged purchase of industrial land in Bhosari, Pune.
“It currently appears as though none of the party top brass want Khadse back,” said a party insider.
Khadse had to step down as revenue minister in June last year, following serious charges against him and his family.
The former minister is now facing probes by multiple agencies, including trials by a committee headed by retired justice DB Zoting, an investigation by the Bombay high court and probes by the local police and the ACB.
Despite Fadnavis assuring the public that the one-member committee appointed by the state under retired justice DB Zoting would complete its investigation within three months, the committee sought several extensions. It was accorded extra powers, after a notification was issued under the Commission of Inquiry Act. Though the committee’s report is yet to be submitted, the fresh FIR filed by the ACB poses a new challenge for the leader, who was keen to return to the government as a minister.
The FIR came a day before Khadse’s hearing in the Bombay high court. At the last hearing in March, the court ordered the ACB to register an FIR and submit an investigation report.
“The police conducted a probe and found no substance in the Bhosari land deal allegations. The FIR was filed only after the government pleader told the court that the state would initiate a criminal case. Despite all the allegations levelled against me, I have come out clean in each case. This will not be an exception,” Khadse told HT.
“The people whose vested interests were thwarted owing to my actions as minister are the ones who hatched this conspiracy. It is strange how allegations in various cases were levelled against me only in the year before I resigned,” Khadse told HT.
The original complaint in the Bhosari land deal case was filed in May 2016, by a man identified as Hemant Gawande. Gawande said Khadse had misused his position as revenue minister to purchase more than 1 hectare of land in survey no 52 in Bhosari industrial estate. Gawande added that Khadse had met revenue officials in his office at Mantralaya, after which the land was bought within 15 days by his wife, son-in-law and others. In his complaint, Gawande said the market price of the land was Rs31 crore, however, Khadse’s relatives bought it for Rs3.75 core. He said the land was to be acquired by the government and the potential compensation was around Rs80 crore. “Khadse bought the land so he could get additional financial returns,” Gawande alleged.
Khadse said the land did not belong to the MIDC as it failed to follow a 1995 government order, which mandated that the acquisition was to be finalised within three years. He raised this contention in the legislative assembly last week,seeking a clarification from the government.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the law and judiciary department would be asked to clarify the order.
Khadse has been cornered by his party several times, even on his home turf — Jalgaon. Staunch Khadse supporter Gurumukh Jagwani was not renominated to the legislative council last year. Later, his supporters were denied tickets in the district council election. Worse, his arch rival in the party, water resources minister Girish Mahajan, was given a say in the decisions related to Jalgaon.