‘Comeback man’ Chhagan Bhujbal will assume office as the state’s deputy chief minister (CM) for the third time.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar took the decision after the party’s newly elected legislators met in Mumbai and authorised Pawar to select their leader.
Sixty-two-year-old Bhujbal was deputy CM and home minister from October 1999 to December 2003 before his name cropped up in the Telgi fake stamp paper scam. He was later absolved.
Bhujbal, who has also served as mayor of Mumbai, returned as deputy CM in December 2008 after incumbent R R Patil quit in the wake of the 26/11 terror attacks. But he did not get the prestigious home department and continued to head the public works department.
“I thank my leaders for their support,” said Bhujbal after senior NCP leader Praful Patel announced his name. “I will try to fulfill all promises made in the manifesto.”
Hindustan Times had reported on Monday that Bhujbal was most likely to be deputy CM. The other backward classes (OBC) leader holds significant clout in communities other than the Marathas who dominate the NCP and his appointment will balance caste equations in the party.
Since the second line of leadership, especially Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar did not show much interest in the job, Bhujbal’s selection was a certainty. “The decision was made in consultation with all senior leaders (including Ajit Pawar),” said Bhujbal.
The NCP won 62 seats in the October 13 Assembly polls, nine less than it won in 2004. But it claimed the support of 17 independents, majority of them NCP rebels, on Monday taking its tally to 79. The Congress won 82 seats and has claimed support of 14 independents.
The alliance enjoys a majority to form the government on its own. The Congress has decided to retain incumbent Ashok Chavan as CM, who submitted his resignation to the Governor on Monday, a formality that protocol demands. Chavan will act as caretaker CM until the new government comes to power in the first week of November.