‘Will not take Bhujbal back’, says Uddhav
Putting an end to speculations, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Monday said senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Chhagan Bhujbal will not be taken back in the Sena.
With mass exodus of several leaders from Opposition parties to the Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), there was buzz that Bhujbal, along with his son, Pankaj, could rejoin the Shiv Sena, the party he started his political career with. Both Bhujbal and Pankaj are MLAs from Nashik district.
According to party functionaries, questions about Bhujbal’s re-entry surfaced on Monday, during a pre-election meeting of office-bearers from Nashik and Dindori region. A party functionary, who was present in the meeting, said, “Office-bearers sought clarity over the speculations about Chhagan Bhujbal. But Uddhav ji told us there was no contact between the Bhujbal family and Shiv Sena.”
Sena leaders seem to have reservations about Bhujbal’s re-entry. Insiders said Subhash Desai, Eknath Shinde, Ramdas Kadam, Diwakar Raote, Sanjay Raut, etc are not keen on Bhujbal’s induction. Some said the sentiments of a common Shiv Sainik will be “hurt” if he comes back.
Bhujbal, 70, enjoys the support of Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the state. He played a key role in the Sena’s expansion beyond Mumbai in the late 1980s. He quit the party in 1991 and subsequently the ties between the two families deteriorated. During his stint as a home minister, he had tried to put Thackeray behind bars in a case related to the 1992-93 Mumbai riots. Since then he has been a bete noire for most Thackeray loyalists. However, the senior leader visited Sena founder Bal Thackeray in 2007.
“It was a regular meeting convened by Uddhav ji before elections. We have not invited him to the party. Even he has denied the rumours. So the question doesn’t arise,” said Bhau Chaudhuri, sampark pramukh of Nashik district, who was present in the meeting. A few days after senior Bhujbal was released from prison in May 2018, Pankaj went to ‘Matoshree’ – Thackeray’s residence in suburban Bandra – with a box of sweets and met Thackeray for 15 minutes.