Maharashtra's Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse is currently in the eye of the storm, following allegations that he exchanged phonecalls with gangster Dawood Ibrahim.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has directed the Anti-Terrorism Squad to probe the allegation that Khadse had received calls from Dawood's house in Karachi."The chief minister and I wanted the matter to be investigated, so the chief minister has asked ATS to probe it," Khadse said on 26 May.Khadse, the senior-most BJP leader in the state cabinet, claimed he had documents to prove that his mobile phone was hacked to show as if calls were made, and added that he would hand over all the evidence in this regard to the investigating agencies.
How did it all begin?
1) On 21 May, Aam Aadmi Party leader Preeti Sharma Menon and social activist Anjali Damania alleged that Khadse had received several calls from Dawood's wife Mehjabeen Shaikh's number (021-35871639) between 4 September, 2015 and 5 April, 2016.
Menon made the allegations citing the call records obtained from a Pakistani telecom company by an Ahmedabad-based hacker.
2) Khadse has dismissed the allegations as "baseless" and has said that the number in question was not in use for the last one year.
3) The controversy comes after the AAP demanded his suspension following the arrest of his 'personal assistant' by the ACB for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 30 crore in a land settlement case.
4) After an investigation by the Mumbai police, Khadse got a clean chit from the police on 22 May who said no calls were made or received on his phone from Dawood Ibrahim as claimed by Aam Aadmi Party.
5) CM Fadnavis rushed to the defence of his senior-most cabinet colleague. "We condemn such act (of levelling allegations by AAP) and expect that the standards in politics will be maintained," he said.
6) However, the Mumbai police on 25 May said the investigation is still on after they have found some new elements in the case. Mumbai Police Commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar also parried questions on whether Khadse was given a 'clean chit' by the Mumbai police.
7) Meanwhile, Khadse said that he has written to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Union Home Minister and the Maharashtra CM, seeking a thorough probe into the allegations. He also demanded action under the Information Technology Act against 'ethical hacker' Manish Bhangale, who claims to have hacked the website of a Pakistani telecom company to get the call records.
8) Khadse said he took the help of BJP MLC Gurmukh Jagwani, who has relatives in Pakistan, to verify Dawood's address cited in documents produced by the AAP - but that it proved to be "fictitious". The minister has also demanded that Preeti Sharma Menon be questioned.
9) According to a report by India Today, the details provided by ethical hacker Manish Bhangale show that in the three months between January and March, 2015, seven calls were exchanged between the two numbers. The longest of these calls was made on March 23, 2015. The call lasted for 5:43 minutes. This is contrary to Khadse's version of the story who said that his phone was off during that period.
10) While speaking to Indian Express, Khadse said, "All facts will come out in one week - I have all the documents." As per the daily Khadse also hinted that this could be a conspiracy against him for his decision as the revenue minister to act against people "violating norms in matters of land.
-Edited by Blassy Boben