Maharashtra’s minister now accused of ‘irregularities’ in land deal

Mumbai/Pune, May 30 (IANS) Maharashtra’s most senior minister Eknath Khadse was mired in a fresh controversy on Monday as a Pune-based businessman accused him, his wife and son-in-law of various irregularities in the purchase of a land piece.

The ruling BJP, however, dismissed as “baseless and mala fide” the allegations against Khadse, number two in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet. The minister represents Muktainagar constituency in Jalgaon district in northern Maharashtra in the assembly.

Businessman-cum-activist Hemant L. Gawande accused Khadse of misusing power and authority, subverting laws, bypassing norms, evading tax, pressurising officials and other wrongdoings in closing the deal in April to benefit his family members. He sought action against Khadse, his family members and others.

Gawande lodged a detailed complaint with Bund Garden police station in Pune against Khadse, his wife Mandakini Khadse and son-in-law Girish Chaudhari, alleging that a prime plot was bought for only Rs.3.75 crore from its original owner Abbas R. Ukani from West Bengal, bypassing the current owner Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC).

The three-acre land belonging to the MIDC is currently worth Rs.40 crore.

The state Bharatiya Janata Party’s spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said: “These are totally baseless and mala fide allegations without any proof.”

When ally Shiv Sena’s Industry Minister Subhash Desai said the land in question was in MIDC possession for over five decades, Bhandari said the minister’s (Desai) statement was based on “incomplete information”.

Khadse, 63, later rushed to meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

Meanwhile, social activist and former Aam Aadmi Party office-bearer Anjali Damania on Monday accused Khadse of involvement in the massive Rs.70,000 crore irrigation scam in which some Nationalist Congress Party bigwigs, including former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, are under the scanner.

Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam led a delegation to Governor C.V. Rao to demand Khadse’s resignation on various counts.

Earlier, the NCP and the Congress both sought Khadse’s sacking over his alleged acts of omission and commission.

Just 10 days ago, AAP spokesperson Priti Sharma-Menon and ethical hacker Manish Bhangale had alleged that absconding mafia don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar had made calls to Khadse from his landline number in Karachi, where he is believed to be living as a figitive.

The minister strongly denied the charge, but Bhangale moved the Bombay High Court to seek a CBI probe.

One person, Gajanan Patil — who claimed to be Khadse’s personal assistant — was nabbed on a complained by activist Ramesh Jadhav by the anti-corruption bureau two weeks ago on charge of demanding Rs.30-crore bribe in a land allotment matter in Thane.



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