The national executive member and spokesperson of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Preeti Sharma Menon recently levelled serious charges against Maharashtra BJP heavyweight EknathKhadse, who occupies a powerful berth in the DevendraFadnavis cabinet. Accusing the BJP leader, Preeti cited the call records obtained from a Pakistani telecom company by a 27-year-old ethical hacker Manish Bhangale saying that calls were made from gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s house in Karachi to an Indian mobile number registered in the name of Khadse. The minister has trashed the charges saying the number has not been in use for over a year, even as Chief Minister Fadnavis has allowed the Anti-Terrorism Squad to probe into the allegation. In an exclusive interaction with The Free Press Journal, the AAP leader said she has not made any allegation against Khadse, instead she has only highlighted the claims made by the ethical hacker. Meanwhile, the AAP leader is not happy with the ongoing investigation and has demanded a court monitored probe into the allegations. Edited excerpts from the interview:
You seem to have no faith in Mumbai police. Still you met the city police chief to seek a fair probe into BJP leader EknathKhadse’s alleged connectionswith Dawood Ibrahim. Why?
lPreeti Sharma Menon: After the Mumbai Police gave the Revenue Minister a clean chit in less than 4 hours, no one in the country has faith in them. It is an excellent force but everyone in the country can see that they acted under political pressure in this case. EknathKhadse had circulated the covering letter of Idea Cellular’s response to the request for CDR by the SP of Jalgaon. The SP made the request on 8 May, Idea responded on 18 May – 10 days! How come Mumbai police got the CDRs in a few hours? Or did they just look at the CDRs given by EknathKhadse without an investigation of their own?
As a citizen, I feel it is my duty to provide them with every information I come across. When Manish Bhangale exposed details of the seven calls, I met the CP to give him the details. Sure enough, despite these new details being in public domain, the CP did not have them. I will continue to support the investigation in every way and I will keep reminding the investigating agencies that it is their duty to work without getting influenced by their political masters.
Many believe that you are making the ethical hacker Manish Bhangale a ‘scapegoat’. How would you react to this charge?
Preeti Sharma Menon: I did not even know the ethical hacker when I wrote to the CM and demanded the inquiry. Manish Bhangale called me after the inquiry started to thank me for raising the issue. He is very happy that finally his claims are being investigated. The boy had tried reaching out to every agency with his evidence – from AjitDoval to the Prime Minister but had been ignored. He is glad he is finally being heard because AAP raised the issue. As for me, I am still unhappy by the farcical cover up investigation that is taking place. I wish they would take Manish’s help and I am sure they can uncover much more about Dawood’s aides in India.
Currently, the ATS is investigating the case. You seem to have doubts about that too. Which agency do you want to probe the matter?
lPreeti Sharma Menon: We have seen that in the Modi regime all agencies – from the police to the CBI to the NIA have become tools of the BJP and only further BJP agenda. The ATS will now be headed by IPS Atul Chandra Kulkarni – the same person who gave a clean chit (to Khadse) as Joint Commissioner Crime! Who can trust such a probe? I think only a court monitored probe will reveal the truth. In the Bhujbal case, the court monitored SIT was forced to act and now ChhaganBhujbal is in jail and all his influential builders are under the scanner.
What will be your next line of action if the agency of your choice also gives a clean chit to Khadse?
Preeti Sharma Menon: There are two aspects to this. One is, we are not saying the hacker’s allegations are true. We are merely asking for a transparent investigation. If we feel the investigation is made with the intention of giving a clean chit then we will protest. We will go to the court too, if we feel it necessary. In ChhaganBhujbal’s case too we had seen how his government gave him a clean chit, but the Hnourable High Court appointed an SIT and today he is in jail.
Will you apologise if your allegation levelled against Khadse is proved false?
lPreeti Sharma Menon: Ridiculous! I have not made any allegations against EknathKhadse. I have said that the ethical hacker Manish Bhangale has claimed that calls have been made from Dawood Ibrahim’s home to EknathKhadse’s mobile phone and it should be investigated.
Yes, there are two issues I have raised against EknathKhadse and I stick by them. One, that he has lied on camera and in his press note wherein he claimed his phone was “switched off” for two years. We proved how his phone is on and the bills are being paid by EknathKhadse himself. A minister cannot lie like this and he should be removed from office. Also, I continue to say that he uses his influential position to intimidate investigators. We have been seeing the same right from the PI Sadre suicide matter to all the current controversies.