Mumbai: Though political circles in the State are abuzz with reports of BJP leader Eknath Khadse’s return to the Maharashtra Cabinet soon, this actually is now a distant dream for Khadse as the BJP high command is not in a position to reinstate him soon.
A one-member committee, headed by a retired judge, Justice Dinkar Zoting to investigate the allegations against Khadse, has submitted its report to the Chief Secretary. According to sources, the report says the committee did not find any illegality in his family members’ purchase of the land in Pune. The submission of the report has sparked off a rumour that Khadse might be given the portfolio of Public Works Department (PWD). Khadse himself says he is waiting for a decision from the party leaders. The report is to be tabled before both the State Assembly and the Legislative Council during the monsoon session.
Khadse was accused of misusing his position for his relatives’ benefits. His wife and son-in-law bought a Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) plot in Bhosari, Pune from the land’s original owner.
This transaction was at the centre of a controversy. Also, the Anti-Corruption Bureau caught his alleged personal assistant, Gajanan Patil receiving a bribe. Another charge against Khadse was made by self-acclaimed hacker Manish Bhangale over his alleged conversation with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. After these allegations, Khadse resigned in June 2016.
The MIDC plot issue had the most serious impact on Khadse’s political image, thereby compelling him to resign on June 5, 2016. To investigate the matter, the State government set up a one-member committee.
Sources confirmed the committee cleared him of any procedural or financial irregularity. Political observers believe the State BJP too needs an experienced figure like Khadse in the Cabinet to handle political crises the party is going through. In the recent farmers’ stir, many had even conveyed to the political leadership that had Khadse been a minister, BJP would not have to face such embarrassment and political damage. According to sources in State administration, the report has stated that Khadse had paid the whole amount of stamp duty of the said plot. It means he had no intention to evade tax while taking undue advantage of his post. “The report further observed that Khadse did not hide information about the purchase of land in the name of his wife Mandakini from the enquiry officers,” said an official from Mantralaya.
“The committee stated there was no violation of rules or misuse of quasi-judicial power, but technically and morally, Khadse’s action (of purchase of land) was not good,” the official said.
According to the sources, the government is maintaining secrecy over the report and so it was printed at three different places. A senior minister from the BJP said there are less chances of reinstatement of Khadse in the Cabinet. “Khadse’s return to the Cabinet could be a threat to a senior minister from Jalgaon and that minister is very close to Chief Minister Fadnavis. Considering these equations and political calculations, it is difficult for Khadse to return to the Cabinet,” the minister said.
Whenever asked about this, Khadse says he is waiting for the party’s decision. However, Khadse is senior to Fadnavis in the party and his style of functioning apparently irritates Fadnavis.
Khadse was also seen as a front-runner for the post of chief minister. So Khadse’s return could boost the anti-Fadnavis camp. However, after winning the ZP and municipality elections with a huge margin, the chief minister has made his position stronger in the party as well as the State.