BJP top brass sacks Khadse, saves face

LAND DEAL FALL­OUT Maha rev­enue min­is­ter first se­nior party leader to lose job

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Ke­taki Ghoge ke­taki.ghoge@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

CON­TIN­UED ON P10

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