Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse is facing the heat from both the Opposition and his own colleagues after the arrest of his personal aide in a bribery case.
The NCP on Sunday demanded that Khadse’s Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Unmesh Mahajan should also be booked in the case.
“The minister’s alleged aide was arrested two days ago. The complainant in this case had told the ACB about (Gajanan) Patil eight months ago. In the same complaint, the name of Khadse’s OSD had also been taken, and for this reason, even he should be arrested,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik.
Malik said the complainant had been introduced to Patil by the OSD himself. “It was the Lokayukta who passed the order after which Patil was arrested. For eight months, the complaint was not acted upon… Even now the main perpetrator has still not been arrested,” he added. The NCP has demanded that all those people who had been named in the audio recordings by the complainant should be arrested.
Meanwhile, Khadse also had to face barbs from his own party, with Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan taking swipes at him. “This controversy could be because Eknath Khadse handles eight to 10 ministries. There are so many officers who report to him. It sometimes becomes difficult. However, Eknath Khadse is not involved in what has happened,” said Mahajan.
Both Khadse and Mahajan hail from Jalgaon district. The two have had a fallout over the past few years.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau on Friday arrested the alleged personal aide of Khadse, Gajanan Patil, for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 30 crore from the complainant, Mumbai-based social entrepreneur Ramesh Jadhav, over a land allotment matter. The ACB is also probing allegations that during a series of meetings at the Mantralaya and in the minister’s official bungalow, the complainant was told the bribe amount had purportedly been conveyed by one “saheb” and a man named “Unmesh”.
On Saturday, Patil was remanded in police custody for two days. The ACB’s FIR reveals that between September 14, 2015 and May 5, 2016, Jadhav met Patil seven times. ACB records show six of these meetings took place either in Khadse’s Mantralaya office or at the minister’s official residence, Ramtek, on Malabar Hill.
The FIR includes transcripts of recorded conversations between Jadhav and Patil. According to Jadhav’s statement, he first come in contact with Patil on September 14, 2015, during a visit to Khadse’s OSD Unmesh Mahajan at the Mantralaya.
According to the FIR, Patil initially demanded Rs 1 crore and a flat for a favourable order, regarding allotment of a 10.78-hectare plot in Kalyan’s Nilje village. Jadhav then approached the ACB and it recorded a conversation between Jadhav and Patil on September 22, 2015. Patil, reportedly, then raised the bribe to Rs 15 crore.
More meetings were arranged on October 1, October 13, October 15 and November 6, 2015. The conversations at each meeting were recorded and transcripts show Patil repeating the bribe demand.
Khadse has said Patil was not employed in any official or personal capacity with his office. A statement by Khadse has said Patil was only a worker from his Assembly constituency, Jalgaon’s Muktainagar. “If someone has been misusing my name and is found guilty, he must be severely punished,” Khadse said.