MUMBAI,DHAVAL KULKARNI:Beleaguered revenue minister Eknath Khadse, who has been accused of receiving calls from Pakistan-based fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, is likely to see his wings clipped in the upcoming reshuffle of the state cabinet.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders said if investigations reveal some wrongdoing, the party would have to take a decision about him.
Khadse is already embroiled in other controversies – like his “aide” Gajanan Patil demanding bribe, his son-in-law Dr Pranjal Khewalkar’s (purchase of?) limousine and purchase of MIDC land — and sources say he seems to be losing support.
“After the controversies, Khadse saheb looked confident during a cabinet meeting. It seemed to be under control when the issue was localised. But now, since this has become national news, things have taken a serious turn,” a BJP minister told dna.
He admitted that the controversies, which broke one after the other, had taken a toll on the image of the party and the government.
The BJP leader said Khadse, who handles multiple, powerful portfolios like revenue, excise, minority development and wakf, animal husbandry, dairy development and fisheries and agriculture, was likely to be relieved of a few of them.
Khadse could be divested of either the powerful revenue department or state excise. This was likely to happen in the impending reshuffle of the state cabinet.
“A number of agencies are involved in the investigations and signals emanating from the party high command are mixed in nature… however, if it is conclusively proved that Dawood and Khadse were in touch, the party may have to take a decision on him as the issue will have severe ramifications,” the source said.
“Somebody may be behind it… someone with old scores to settle,” said another senior BJP leader, adding that this was hurting the image of the government, which was claiming that the two years of the Narendra Modi regime were untainted by any scam or scandal.
When contacted, Khadse said he would not react on the controversy.
“This is a cooked-up controversy,” said BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari. There were “ifs and buts” in the authenticity of the ethical hacker and the material sourced, he said. “It is an easy weapon to use against anyone,” he said.
However, it may not be easy to sideline Khadse. The seniormost minister in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet has been elected for successive terms from the Muktainagar constituency in Jalgaon since 1990.
From the OBC Leva Patil community, Khadse enjoys support in the region and his daughter-in-law Raksha is a BJP MP from Jalgaon while wife Mandakini is the chief of the powerful apex milk co-operative Mahananda.
It may be noted that after Fadnavis was appointed as the chief minister, Khadse had made his chief ministerial ambitions apparent.
Incidentally, in the 1990s, late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, who later became the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, had accused then Congress chief minister Sharad Pawar and his associates of having links with the dreaded underworld don. Munde had also promised to bring “a shackled Dawood to India” if elected to power.