As senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal faces a question mark over his political future, party colleagues and former aides say his faith in his nephew Sameer probably put him in trouble.
“It was Sameer who used to handle everything for Bhujbal except political decisions. Nobody would dare question him over his decisions. Bhujbal used to rely heavily on Sameer for everything else,” said a former aide. The Enforcement Directorate has described Sameer as a mastermind in the alleged money-laundering case. Sameer, 42, has been in ED custody for almost six weeks now.
As Bhujbal shot to prominence in state politics in the late 1990s, Sameer was almost like his shadow. As Bhujbal became deputy chief minister, he entrusted Sameer, and not his son Pankaj, with the responsibility of political management as well as his businesses.
NCP legislators point out how during Bhujbal’s tenure, his office was under Sameer’s influence. “He was not a frequent visitor to Bhujbal’s Mantralaya office but there were one or two personal assistants who used to directly coordinate with him. They even had direct access to senior officers in the department headed by Bhujbal,” said a senior legislator.
In 2009, Sameer contested Lok Sabha elections from Nashik and won. After becoming MP, he made contacts in Delhi’s power circles.
“Right from deciding who would contest elections for the party in Nashik district (Bhujbal’s bastion) to handling businesses run by the family, it was Sameer who was given most of the responsibility. He was regarded as Bhujbal’s right hand,” said another aide.