Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today defended some of his cabinet colleagues against whom the Opposition Congress and NCP have levelled allegations of corruption. Replying to a discussion on ‘tainted’ ministers, in the Lower House, the CM also made it clear that former Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse — who resigned recently in the wake of series of allegations against him — has been given clean chit in the PA bribery case. Khadse’s name does not figure in the Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) charge sheet in the case of graft by Gajanan Patil, an alleged personal assistant of Khadse, Fadnavis said. Patil was trapped by the ACB on May 14 for allegedly demanding Rs 30 crore from a Mumbai-based social entrepreneur Dr Ramesh Jadhav.
Fadnavis said Vadodara-based hacker Manish Bhangale had met him with alleged call records from Dawood’s Karachi residence to show that Khadse was in frequent touch with the underworld don. “When Bhangale met me, I immediately asked the Crime Branch to conduct an inquiry,” Fadnavis said. “No charge has been proved against minister Jaykumar Rawal,” he said. Similarly, there is not a single crime registered against Minister of State Ravindra Chavan, he added. Fadnavis also defended minister Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar, who has been found to be closely associated with a company listed as a wilful defaulter by the Bank of Maharashtra.
Nilangekar, Minister for Labour, Earthquake Rehabilitation and Ex-servicemen’s Welfare, is a guarantor for a loan that was a non-performing asset (NPA) and declared as a “fraud account” with an outstanding balance of Rs 49.29 crore owed to two state-owned banks — Bank of Maharashtra and Union Bank of India. Further, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last year filed a chargesheet in a case of cheating lodged by the banks after finding that the mortgage deed papers for the loan had been tampered with. “As the matter pertains to a national bank, the inquiry is being conducted by CBI,” Fadnavis said. Nothing more should be read into it, he added. “The Opposition zeroed in on a figure (of ministers to be targeted). Just because our government completed 20 months, 20 ministers were targeted,” Fadnavis said.
Meanwhile, former CM Prithviraj Chavan told reporters later that CM sought Khadse’s resignation after allegations. “Why should there be one yardstick for Khadse and a different one for other ministers,” Chavan said. Talking to reporters, NCP MLA Jayant Patil said Fadnavis has yet not given clean chit to Khadse in the MIDC land purchase at Bhosari in Pune. “The CM says the case is subjudice. Cases against some ministers are also subjudice but they continue to remain in the ministry,” Patil said. “Why should there be a different criterion for Khadse and other ministers,” Patil said. Both Chavan and Patil alleged that the government shied away from debate on the ‘tainted’ ministers. Patil said the presiding officer wound up the House proceedings in a huff.