BJP top brass sacks Khadse, saves face
LAND DEAL FALLOUT Maha revenue minister first senior party leader to lose job
In a swift decision that came from the BJP’s top leadership in New Delhi, Maharashtra revenue minister Eknath Khadse was asked to step down from the state cabinet on Saturday owing to serious graft charges against him. Khadse, one of the senior most leaders in the state and an aspirant to chief minister’s post, is the first prominent BJP leader to resign over corruption charges since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was sworn in, largely on an anti-graft poll plank, in 2014.
Sources said the BJP’s national joint general secretary V Satish informed Khadse of the party leadership’s decision on Saturday morning, leaving the so far defiant leader with no option but to quit. Ironically, the OBC leader, who was also the leader of opposition from 2009 to 2014, had led the corruption crusade against the Congress-NCP government.
The party, however, allowed Khadse to make the resignation announcement at a press conference as a face-saving measure. Sources said he was promised a comeback if he gets a clean chit in the probe. But, a second innings for Khadse seems difficult. Meanwhile, CM Devendra Fadnavis announced a probe by a retired high court judge into all the allegations against Khadse.
The senior minister’s ouster came within a month of the first corruption allegation against him in May, when his alleged personal aide, Gajanan Patil, was caught by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) demanding Rs30-crore bribe. Since then, the minister has battled several allegations, but the controversial land deal in Bhosari (Pune), which directly benefitted his family, cost Khadse his job.
“The decision came directly from the top, with the PM taking a view that such serious charges can’t be ignored. It reflected badly on him and the central government. The state party unit had no role to play in this [decision]. The controversial land deal allegation, which points to conflict of interest and personal profiteering, went against him [Khadse]. The decision is clearly a signal to all that such charges of graft will not be taken lightly,” said a party minister, on condition of anonymity.
Sources said the land scam allegation weakened BJP’s aggressive stance against the Congress, specifically the Gandhis, and that irked party president Amit Shah and Modi. Khadse’s steady defiance in the face of the serious charges also did not go down too well with the leadership.
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