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Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

Will Bhujbal join Sena? Guessing game still on

Although Bhujbal as well as Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray have chosen not to comment, the buzz has grown stronger in past few days, as Bhujbal has been skipping NCP’s functions.

mumbai Updated: Aug 31, 2019 05:13 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Bhujbal who began as an ordinary Sena worker, rose up to the rank of corporator, Mumbai mayor and legislator.
Bhujbal who began as an ordinary Sena worker, rose up to the rank of corporator, Mumbai mayor and legislator.(Photo by Pramod Thakur/ Hindustan Times)
         

For the past few days, speculation is rife that senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal may return to the Shiv Sena, the party he left in 1991 for NCP. Bhujbal, who was behind bars in a money laundering case for two years, is in touch with the Sena leadership, according to the people close to him.

Although Bhujbal as well as Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray have chosen not to comment, the buzz has grown stronger in past few days, as Bhujbal has been skipping NCP’s functions. Several Sena leaders from north Maharashtra even rushed to Mumbai, urging Thackeray not to admit the NCP leader. He has told them no such decision has been taken.

Those who in the know of developments say Thackeray is weighing his options and is yet to take a call. A majority of Sena leaders and workers are strongly against Bhujbal, who as the home minister had got Sena founder Bal Thackeray arrested in connection with the 1992-93 Mumbai riots. Bhujbal is now wary of the Enforcement Directorate cases against him.

A senior NCP leader said Bhujbal did not answer calls made by party MP Supriya Sule early this week. He is the legislator from Yeola in Nashik district, but did not attend the party meetings in Nashik in the presence of Sule. He has also stayed away from the second phase of the party’s Shiv Swarajya Yatra, a statewide tour taken out by NCP leaders. Bhujbal, who hails from Mali community, is a prominent OBC face of the NCP.

According to senior party leaders, the NCP top brass is preparing plan B ready in case Bhujbal quits. The party has shortlisted two candidates for Yeola and Nandgaon assembly constituencies held by Bhujbal and his son Pankaj, respectively. The party may field Bajirao Shinde from Nandgaon and Manik Shinde from Yeola. Local leaders from both the constituencies have already resigned in protest against Bhujbal pointing at his ‘high handedness.’

“Bhujbal is upset with the leadership as he was imprisoned in the Maharashtra Sadan scam case for more than two years. He thinks the senior party leader did not do anything for him during this period. However, his clout in his hometown Nashik is waning and winning both the seats may become difficult. Realising this, he even tapped the chances of joining BJP, which shut doors on him. His entry into Shiv Sena is unlikely to be smooth due to opposition at various levels,” said a leader close to Bhujbal.

Shiv Sena’s sitting MP from Nashik Hemant Godse and district president Suhas Kande have opposed the induction of Bhujbals. According to Sena insiders, Bhujbal has reportedly been demanding three seats, Vaijapur in Aurangabad for his nephew and former NCP MP Sameer, besides the incumbent seats held by Bhujbal and son Pankaj.

Bhujbal who began as an ordinary Sena worker, rose up to the rank of corporator, Mumbai mayor and legislator. He quit the party in 1991 following differences with late Bal Thackeray and joined the Congress. He was one of the founders of the NCP when Sharad Pawar left the Congress and formed the party. He was the first state unit chief of NCP and also became deputy chief minister in 1999.

Bhujbal was not available for comments despite repeated attempt. Party spokesperson Nawab Malik said, “Rumours about his quitting have no substance.” When asked about Bhujbal by the mediapersons last week, Thackeray said: “Answers to all questions will come at an appropriate time.”

NCP chief Sharad Pawar loses his cool

NCP chief Sharad Pawar got angry during a press conference in Shrirampur in Ahmednagar district when he was asked about his relatives quitting party, referring to the possible defection of Padmasinh Patil in the next few days. “Where does the question arise of a relative here? What you are asking is wrong? There is no question of relatives in politics,” he said. Meanwhile, Congress MLA from Maan in Satara district Jaikumar Gore quit the party on Friday. He will join the BJP.

First Published: Aug 31, 2019 00:38 IST

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