The ruling BJP government at the Centre faced a huge embarrassment on Saturday as one of its senior ministers in Maharashtra government was accused of being on the ‘most dialled’ list of underworld don, Dawood Ibrahim.
Making the explosive revelation on Saturday, Aam Aadmi Party demanded the immediate sacking of Maharashtra’s minister, Eknath Khadse.
The party alleged that frequent calls were made from Dawood Ibrahim’s residence in Karachi to his mobile phone.
A defensive Khadse made desperate attempts to deny the allegations, but the subsequent revelations appeared to cause more embarrassment for the controversial minister.
Contrary to Khadse’s claims that his number was not in use between September 2015 and April 2016, AAP spokesperson, Preeti Sharma Menon said that the number in question was “active” till last month.
She told reporters in Mumbai, “Eknath Khadse lied about his phone being out of service. His number 9423073667 received several calls from Dawood Ibrahim’s wife Mehjabeen Shaikh’s number 021-35871639 between September 4 2015 to April 5, 2016.”
Menon, according to PTI, had met Maharashtra chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, and raised the issue of call records of four landline numbers registered at the underworld don’s mansion in Karachi and of Khadse’s name allegedly figuring on the list.
Addressing a press conference, she claimed that the call details between September 5, 2015 and April 5, 2016 were accessed with the help of an “ethical hacker” Manish Bhangale.
She said that chief minister had asked the Mumbai Police to investigate the matter and that “the Police Commissioner’s office has contacted Bhangale who has assured all support to police or any other central investigating agency”.
She said, “The call list of frequently internationally dialled numbers from Dawood Ibrahim’s home phone also includes Eknath Khadse’s number and it was a total lie that Khadse’s number was not in service.”
The AAP leader claimed the last generated bill for Rs. 683.22 of the particular phone number was dated 23 April this year and was dispatched to Khadse’s home address in Muktainagar tehsil in Jalgaon district of north Maharashtra.
The AAP leader said, “I wrote to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis demanding a fair investigation as this is a very serious charge concerning national security”.
Meanwhile, Bhangale said that he first went to Dubai and got Dawood’s wife Mehjabeen’s number, hacked it and placed a call detail request on her behalf to Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL).
Social media users mock Khadse
However, Khadse’s claims that his phone was out of service, which then changed to somebody allegedly cloning his number have evoked sharp reactions on social media with users accusing him of indulging in repeated lies.
Why did Maharashtra Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse lie about his phone being out of service?#SackEknathKhadse
— Ankit Lal (@AnkitLal) May 21, 2016
— Deepak Bajpai (@BajpaiDeepak) May 21, 2016
Know personally that only around a dozen Maharastra politicians not in touch with Dawood! Fatal attraction! https://t.co/hRhm5mn3VV
— Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) May 21, 2016
— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) May 21, 2016
— ANIL GALGALI (@ANILGALGALIRTI) May 21, 2016
Relation between #Khadse & Dawood must b investigated by Central Agencies.Because Dawood is India's most wanted.Main accused of Mumbai blast
— Sanjay Nirupam (@sanjaynirupam) May 21, 2016
Very serious allegation against BJP Minister in Maharashtra Eknath Khadse for Link with Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. call details nailed.
— ASHUTOSH MISHRA (@ashu3page) May 21, 2016
Mumbai Police criticised
The revelation also brought the role of Maharashtra government under sharp scrutiny with many questioning the alleged indifference shown by the cops, who report to the state government run by the BJP.
No sooner had Menon revealed Khadse’s alleged links with Dawood, Mumbai Police issued a clarification rejecting the claims made by the AAP leader. This despite evidence being presented in public domain to substantiate the allegations against Khadse.
Mumbai Police’s Joint CP(Crime), Atul C Kulkarni, said, “Initial analysis of cellphone record(of Khadse)indicated that there have been neither outgoing calls or incoming calls from his(Eknath Khadse)cell number to that of fugitive during the period of Sep ’15 to Apr ’16.”
Menon took to Twitter to mock Mumbai Police’s ‘efficiency’ on an otherwise very serious matter, potentially impacting the country’s national security.
She said, “Impressed with speed of Inquiry of Mumbai Police . Did not act fr weeks and within 6 hrs of my PC they refuted hacker’s allegations. I congratulate them on their efficiency. Wish they act so fast on all complaints. However I strongly feel hacker’s allegations are very serious, they merit a serious, detailed, investigation, not a hatchet job. Let us wait and watch and see how it unfolds.”
Other users too slammed the cops for its ‘efficiency.’
This is the speed of NaMo govt which Congress can't beat.
They 1st give clean chit and then inquire what was the matter..:)
— Mahesh (@mahesh88_) May 21, 2016
— Ashish Singh Thakur (@moviesashish) May 21, 2016
Saturday’s revelation assumes significance in light of Narendra Modi government’s repeated claims that it was determined to get India’s most wanted don back to India.
While in opposition, Modi and his senior hardliner colleagues had never missed an opportunity to embarrass the then Congress-led UPA government for its inability to nab Dawood. However, it’s been two years since Modi became prime minister, and yet his government has not made any significant headway on that front. This has not gone unnoticed with Modi’s detractors, who have been reminding him about what he said on Dawood in the past.
And now it emerges that one of the senior ministers belonging to Modi’s party has been on the most-dialled list of India’s most wanted.
A lot will depend on how Maharashtra government or the central intelligence services respond to the latest revelations. But AAP doesn’t appear to be in any mood to let the issue die down.