Till about a few days back, Eknath Khadse was known as a powerful minister in Devendra Fadnavis' cabinet, handling important portfolios like minority development, excise, revenue, wakf, animal husbandry, dairy development and fisheries and agriculture.
Then allegations that Khadse had been in touch with Dawood Ibrahim surfaced.
Aam Aadmi Party Spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon had levelled the allegation against Mr Khadse last week. Ms Menon had alleged, citing the call records obtained from a Pakistani telecom company by an Ahmedabad-based hacker, that calls were made from Dawood's house in Karachi to a mobile number registered in Mr Khadse's name.
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis promptly directed the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) to probe into the allegations. Khadse rubbished Menon's claims and said that the number cited has not been in use for over a year.
Now DNA has reported that if the ATS finds links between Khadse and the gangster, Khadse could face strict action.
AAP leader Preeti Sharma Menon shares the details of how the call logs been hacked of Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse's number in Dawood's call log by the hacker, at Marathi Patarkar Sangh, on May 21, 2016 in Mumbai, India.
"After the controversies, Khadse saheb looked confident during a cabinet meeting. It seemed to be under control when the issue was localised. But now, since this has become national news, things have taken a serious turn," a BJP minister told DNA on condition of anonymity.
"A number of agencies are involved in the investigations and signals emanating from the party high command are mixed in nature… however, if it is conclusively proved that Dawood and Khadse were in touch, the party may have to take a decision on him as the issue will have severe ramifications," he added.
On his part, Khadse told The Indian Express that this controversy was cooked up by people out to settle scores with him. "In the past, a similar campaign was launched against Nitin Gadkari. I think I am being targeted as I am the most senior minister in the government. An attack on me puts unknown people on centre-stage,” said Khadse.
He has filed a defamation suit against the AAP activist. "What are the credentials of Anjali Damania who has accused me of land deals and a phone call to Dawood," he asked.
According to IE, Khadse had openly declared post the Maharashtra Assembly elections that he was the most deserving candidate to be the chief minister. When Fadnavis was give precedence over him, he had also made his displeasure known to his supporters.
With inputs from PTI