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Bhujbal vs Raj, part two

india Updated: Mar 12, 2012 19:01 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
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Although the mayoral election in Nashik is now in the news because of Uddhav Thackeray’s reluctance to let Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) win its first term in a civic body and cousin Raj’s determination to win it, there is yet another angle to it — the second round of a bitter tussle between Raj and public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal.

The rivalry began in the late 1990s when Bhujbal raised the Ramesh Kini murder issue and accused Raj of his involvement in the same. Bhujbal’s target back then was Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray, who was the chief patron of the then ruling Sena-BJP alliance.

His plan was to damage the Sena but the Kini issue almost ended Raj’s political career. It was no coincidence that Uddhav started taking more interest in the party’s affairs at the same time. Eventually Raj came out of the Kini maze but senior Thackeray started showing an inclination towards his son rather than the ambitious nephew.

Those who are close to Raj talk of how their leader has still not forgotten the whole episode and is unlikely to ‘forgive’ Bhujbal for the same.

The bitterness was evident during the civic elections as both Raj and Bhujbal wanted to turn Nashik city into their citadel.

Both the leaders targeted and ridiculed each other. However, the election threw a hung house with the MNS emerging as the single largest party.

The BJP is keen to see an MNS-BJP-Sena combination taking shape in Nashik — something which the party hopes to replicate to win power in the state before or after the 2014 assembly poll. It almost managed the same by convincing Uddhav that MNS support in Thane would mean a tension-free, five-year rule in that city.

However, now that it has chances of winning power in Nashik, the Sena is not so keen to return the favour. And many see the Bhujbal connection in the same way.

Bhujbal (also the guardian minister of Nashik) does not want to let Raj win control of Nashik’s civic body. Significantly, Uddhav never had any bitter enmity with the former Sena strongman who defected to Congress in 1991. In fact, it was Uddhav who facilitated the Thackeray-Bhujbal reconciliation some time ago. His personal secretary, Milind Narwekar, played a mediator’s role to clear the pitch for reconciliation. Was it a surprise, then, that five to six independent corporators who were with the NCP-Congress are now ready to support the Sena in Nashik?

With so many twists in the tale, we will have to wait till March 15 to describe the outcome of the Nashik tussle: whether blood is thicker than water, or the enemy’s enemy becomes a friend, or another step in the interest of Marathi voters...

That is the Congress
After the poor show in the civic polls, one would expect Congress leaders to sit together and introspect about went wrong. If you think so, then well, you don’t know Congressmen in Maharashtra.

Instead of working out ways to win the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in 2014, top Congress functionaries are busy finding scapegoats for the defeat and turning the calamity into an opportunity for them.

So close aides of state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre are busy pointing out how the party needs to change the guard (read chief minister Prithviraj Chavan) with someone who can win elections (by this, they mean Thakre).

At least three senior Congress ministers in state cabinet are making frequent trips to New Delhi to lobby for themselves in case the party high command is looking for Chavan’s replacement. Several senior Congress leaders have suddenly become active and are eyeing Thakre’s post.

With this kind of scramble to grab each other’s chairs, is the Congress showing signs of a party that may be staring at defeat in 2014?