In a major relief to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former minister Eknath Khadse, the Maharashtra Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) has given him a clean chit in an alleged land scam.
The ACB filed its final report in a Pune court and said the allegations of “misuse of power and position as Minister” in the Bhosari MIDC land deal could not be proved, IANS reported.
The ACB report said the contention that the state suffered a huge revenue loss in the purported deal was also not proved.
Eknath Khadse, the most senior leader in the Maharashtra BJP, lost his ministership in June 2016 after former Aam Aadmi Party leader Anjali Damania lodged a complaint against him. Khadse used to hold several important portfolios.
Damania said Tuesday she would challenge the ACB clean chit in the Bombay High Court.
“This is how the BJP saves their corrupt ministers. I had given all proof in the Bhosari land (deal) to the ACB in August 2017,” she said.
Khadse had always maintained that the case was without basis or merit.
On Tuesday, reacting to the ACB report, Khadse once again said he had done no wrong.
“The allegations against me were levelled with malicious intent. They have been proved false. Those who levelled charges against me have fallen flat on their faces. I don’t want to discuss how some people very close to me betrayed me, but I will continue to work in the same spirit as before,” he told the media in Mumbai.
Asked if he would be re-inducted in the Cabinet, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: “I will abide by whatever decision the party takes.”
The BJP top leadership had earlier taken a stand not to give his cabinet berth back until he was absolved of all corruption charges.
During an event in his hometown Jalgaon, Maharashtra, in January this year, a peeved Khadse had warned that he should not be forced to quit the BJP. He was sharing the stage with rival Congress and his comment came after Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan gave him an open invitation to join the party.
“I would like to make it clear that I don’t want to leave the BJP. But at the same time you (BJP leaders) don’t force me to leave BJP,” Khadse had said, adding: “…if I have committed a crime, put me in prison. But why am I being punished without any mistake?”
A disappointed Khadse had even recited an old Hindi film song to express his feelings. “Rahate the jinke dil mein, hum jaan se bhi pyaron ki tarah; baithe hain unhi ke kuche mein hum aaj gunehgaro ki tarah.” Translated, the lines means, “I stand like a criminal in the company of those very people with whom I have lived as friends.”
And such outbursts had been frequent ever since the BJP top leadership took a stand against him.
“The BJP holds Khadse in highest reverence and values his contribution to the organisation. There are some issues pending against Khadse, which if cleared, would help us reinstate him,” The Indian Express had quoted Maharashtra BJP president Raosaheb Danve as saying after the Jalgaon event.
NCP leaders had also invited Eknath Khadse to join the party.
Earlier, the Maharashtra government had appointed Justice (retired) Dinkar Zoting to probe the land scam. The committee had even submitted a report to the government. However, after a court asked the ACB to probe the scam, the report had become irrelevant, and the government said it would have to wait for the ACB to conclude its investigation before taking any decision on Khadse.