Eknath Khadse’s resignation last week was primarily because of charges of corruption but he also faced allegations of having been in touch with fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim. For “proof” that these allegations were false, Khadse turned to the man who is always a step behind him whenever he enters Maharashtra’s Legislative Council, where Khadse remains Leader of the House.
Dr Gurmukh Jagwani, 59, still has a small house in Karachi, where he hailed from before settling in Maharashtra and becoming a BJP MLC. The house, registered in the name of Jagwani’s father, is in Karachi’s upscale neighbourhood of Clifton, where Dawood allegedly stays. Jagwani said he used his contacts to verify the Clifton address mentioned in the call records and claimed he established it as false. “Being originally from Pakistan, I could instantly spot the format of the bill was different from that of Pakistan Telecommunications Ltd bills,” Jagwani said.
The bond between Khadse and Jagwani, a Pakistani doctor-turned-Maharashtra businessman-turned politician, is apparent to anyone who knows the senior leader. In the Legislative Council, Jagwani sits on a bench close to the back, ready to help whenever required. Should Khadse need anything during the House proceedings, Jagwani quietly slips in and out. And when Khadse gets up to leave, Jagwani joins him at once.
“Everyone knows Jagwani is Khadse’s Man Friday,” said a Congress leader. “A lot of people who want to get in touch with Khadse but cannot reach him approach Jagwani. I have seen people requesting him to get their work done with the minister.”
Born in Sukkur in Pakistan’s Sindh province, Jagwani graduated from Chandka Medical College of University of Sindh. In 1981, he visited India on his honeymoon, stayed with some of his relatives in Jalgaon —which is Khadse’s home turf — and eventually decided to migrate here.
“I really liked the lifestyle in India, and thought the country will be good for me even from a religious point of view,” he said. “I worked in Karachi for a year as a pediatrician, and in June 1985 migrated to Mumbai. In 1987, I moved to Jalgaon because I already had a few relatives there.”
Jalgaon brought him in close contact with one of Maharashtra’s most powerful politicians. When Jagwani first met Khadse and the BJP’s Girish Mahajan, also of Jalgaon, it was not as a politician but as a businessman, having ventured into land development and oil exploration with his relatives.
“I soon became part of the BJP and was put in charge of hospitality of all senior leaders who visit Jalgaon. I have even driven L K Advaniji around the city in a car. Both leaders helped me a lot but Khadse saab was my main boss,” said Jagwani. As a businessman, meanwhile, his holdings in India have flourished to Rs 18.11 crore, as per his affidavit for the council elections in 2014.
Simultaneously, Jagwani has maintained political ties in Pakistan. Legislators and ministers from Sindh are known to have graced every major function the Jagwani family has hosted in Mumbai or Jalgaon. Back in Pakistan, his father was a five-time legislator and a minister. In Maharashtra, Jagwani has been happy being in Khadse’s shadow while focusing on issues he is passionate about, such as development of the migrant Sindhi community in parts of the state.
Jagwani entered the Legislative Council in 2004 after winning the election as an independent backed by Khadse. After his term ended, Khadse nominated his son, Nikhil, who failed to retain the seat. Jagwani returned to the council in 2014.
Despite having served nearly eight years in his two stints, Jagwani has had little interaction with other council members. “He is present every day, but hardly participates in debates. He speaks very occasionally and only on issues relating to his region or community,” said an NCP legislator.
Legislators note, however, that Jagwani has a pleasant disposition, greeting colleagues with a smile and handing out chocolate to whomever he meets. Otherwise, most know him simply as Dr Jagwani, close aide of Eknath Khadse.