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Why is Chhagan Bhujbal unhappy in the NCP?

Jun 15, 2024 08:52 AM IST

For the second day in a row, senior NCP leader and state minister Chhagan Bhujbal expressed his anguish about not getting a chance to move to Parliament

MUMBAI: For the second day in a row, senior NCP leader and state minister Chhagan Bhujbal expressed his anguish about not getting a chance to move to Parliament.

Mumbai, India – Feb 20, 2024: NCP MLA Chhagan Bhujbal addressing the media, in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

On Thursday, he made it clear that he was interested in the Rajya Sabha seat that fell vacant but the party decided to give it to Sunetra Pawar, wife of party president and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. On Friday, Bhujbal again went public, telling mediapersons that he had been keen on contesting the Lok Sabha election from Nashik constituency but backed out since he felt insulted.

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“Following a decision (taken in Delhi), I was ready to contest from Nashik,” he said. “However, there was no further move for a month after that. Meanwhile, our rival parties were already campaigning and so I decided to back out. Our alliance’s candidate was announced a fortnight after that.”

Bhujbal was referring to the controversy surrounding the Nashik seat before the Lok Sabha elections. According to him, union home minister Amit Shah had told state BJP leaders to consider him for the constituency. However, chief minister Eknath Shinde was hell-bent on contesting Nashik since the sitting MP, Hemant Godse, was from his party. Even the intervention by BJP leaders did not help, and Bhujbal decided to back out. Shinde fielded Godse, who lost to Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Rajabhau Waje by a margin of 1,62,001 votes.

A senior NCP leader said that Bhujbal was keen on shifting to Parliament also because of the political situation in Maharashtra. The OBC leader had taken a very strong stand against Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange-Patil’s agitation, opposing the latter’s demand that Marathas be given reservation in government jobs and education from the OBC quota by giving them Kunbi caste certificates. (Kunbi, a peasant sub-caste of the Maratha community, enjoys reservation from the OBC quota.) Thanks to his firm stance, Bhujbal became the target of Maratha outfits, with Jarange-Patil directing the community to defeat Bhujbal wherever he contested. Bhujbal was not even allowed to campaign in some Maratha-dominated areas.

In the recent Lok Sabha elections, the Maratha community voted against the ruling parties in most constituencies in Marathwada. The ruling alliance’s prospects in several other constituencies were affected as well.

Of the 48 newly elected MPs, 26 are Marathas and nine are OBCs. The ruling alliance is exploring ways to pacify the Maratha community. Given this background, Bhujbal is keen on moving to Parliament rather than contesting the assembly elections scheduled to be held in September-October.

“This was the reason he was keen to contest from the Nashik Lok Sabha seat,” said the above-mentioned senior leader. “When it did not happen, as Shinde put his foot down, Bhujbal showed interest in the Rajya Sabha seat vacated by senior leader Praful Patel after he was elected to the Rajya Sabha from another seat last February.” However, the party leadership chose to give the seat to Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra who lost to NCP (SP) candidate Supriya Sule in Baramati constituency in the Lok Sabha elections.

“You don’t get everything that you want in the party,” Bhujbal remarked when he was asked about the Rajya Sabha berth he was eying.

A legislator close to Bhujbal said that the NCP top brass was not very keen to send Bhujbal to Parliament, as it felt that he would then be directly in touch with the BJP top brass and might not toe the party line. “There was also some apprehension that he would be a natural claimant for a ministerial berth in the union government,” he added.

With the party leadership not accepting his demand, Bhujbal is making it known that he is not happy. NCP chief Ajit Pawar, however, denied this. “The decision to give a Rajya Sabha ticket to Sunetra Pawar was taken by the party,” he said on Friday. “Our rivals as well as some close friends are spreading rumours that he is unhappy in the party. But Bhujbal himself has made it clear that he is not.”

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