Mumbai: The Shiv Sena demonstrated its commitment to politically trolling the BJP today with its top leader, Sanjay Raut, joining the chorus for the resignation of Maharashtra minister Eknath Khadse over corruption charges.
- Shiv Sena leader demands removal of minister Eknath Khadse
- Khadse accused of corruption in sweetheart land deal
- BJP says it's investigating case, pressure builds for Khadse to quit
The Sena is the BJP's junior partner in the Maharashtra government, but has overlooked no opportunity to confront the BJP both in the state and at the centre.
Mr Khadse, a BJP leader, is the most senior minister of the Maharashtra government. Though the Sena has said that Mr Raut's call for his resignation is a personal opinion, the BJP is reading the statement as pressure on an issue that has provided choice fare for its opponents.
"With new facts out, Eknath Khadse is under cloud of suspicion, I am sure the party will take decision soon," said Satyapal Singh of the BJP to news agency ANI. Amit Shah, the party president, has reportedly asked the Maharashtra branch of the BJP to furnish a detailed report on the allegations against Mr Khadse, who is also being investigated on charges that underworld don Dawood Ibrahim phoned him from Pakistan last year. The minister has denied receiving the calls.
In April, Mr Khadse's wife Mandakini and son-in-law Girish Chaudhari bought a large plot of land on the outskirts of Pune for a little under four crores. The alleged wrong-doings are that the land is worth much more- at least 30 crores according to the market value - and that it was acquired in the 1970s by a state-run company, the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, which has the rights to lease, but not sell the land, to firms and not individuals.
Mr Khadse has offered this defense to his party: that his relatives and not he bought the land and that the acquisition of the land was never completed by the government, which allowed him to buy it from the original owner, Abbas Ukani, a 94-year-old who lives in Kolkata, and says that he was never given compensation by the government for the takeover of his land, which means he retains all rights to it.
Mr Khadse also points out that his relatives paid stamp duty or tax on the market value and not the discounted rate of the property.
The "whistle-blower" in the land-deal is Hemant Gawande, a builder in Pune. "The laws have been violated because the MIDC (state-run company) doesn't even know this land was purchased by a top politician and his family. MIDC told me that this land is ours and no one can sell this. If it gets sold and we find out about it, we will lodge an FIR against the purchasers of the land," he said today.
He warned that if the state-run corporation does not follow through with action, he will go to court.