Graft-tainted Maharashtra BJP minister quits

Mumbai : Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, the de facto No.2 in the BJP-led state government, quit on Saturday after getting embroiled in multiple controversies, including graft allegations in a questionable land deal and his alleged links with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.

Khadse, who also held nearly a dozen other major portfolios in the state government, met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and put in his papers to resign from all his ministerial portfolios, sources said.

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The fast-paced developments happened a day after Fadnavis met Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and submitted a detailed report in New Delhi on the issues confronting Khadse.

Fadnavis later followed it up by a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and apprised him of the row that was denting the BJP’s “clean image” in the state.

Khadse, 63, has been under fire during the past few weeks from the ruling alliance partner Shiv Sena, as also the opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, the Aam Aadmi Party and activists for various acts of commission and omission.

However, presenting a brave face, Khadse, who hails from Jalgaon, strongly refuted all the allegations against him and vowed to prove himself innocent.

Among the major accusations hurled at Khadse was alloting a prime industrial plot in Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) complex in Pune at a throwaway price and an allegation by an “ethical hacker” that his name figured on the regular call lists of absconding mafia don Dawood Ibrahim from his Karachi home.

The other charges against the minister related to an aide, Gajanan Patil, demanding a bribe of Rs 30 crore in connection with a land proposal file in Kalyan, Thane.

Former AAP activist Anjali Damania’s allegations linked him to the multi-thousand crore rupees irrigation scam. The latest were graft charges leveled by a fishermen’s society.

Once a claimant to chief minister’s post, Khadse was assigned the departments of revenue, minorities development and Wakf, state excise, relief and rehabilitation, earthquake rehabilitation, agriculture an dhorticulture, animal husbandly, dairy development and fisheries.