Chhagan Bhujbal: The man who got Bal Thackeray arrested
He went from vegetable vendor to deputy chief minister who got Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray arrested, but Chhagan Bhujbal’s luck ran out on Monday.
Inspired by the fiery speeches of Bal Thackeray, Bhujbal, who was then selling vegetables in Byculla, joined the Shiv Sena in the 1960s. He was elected Mayor of Mumbai and soon established himself as a Sena stalwart. He was elected from Mazgaon assembly for the first time in 1985 and again in 1990.
But he quit the Sena when Thackeray made Manohar Joshi opposition leader in the state assembly. In fact, he became the first high-profile Sena leader to engineering a defection. Bhujbal joined the Congress and became a minister.
The Congress and Bhujbal lost the next assembly election, in 1995, and the Sena led its first government in Maharashtra in alliance with the BJP. This should have sent Bhujbal into the political wilderness, but his new mentor, Sharad Pawar, made him opposition leader in the Legislative Council.
Bhujbal grabbed the lifeline and over the next two-three years, single-handedly launched an attack on the Sena-BJP government by exposing several scams. He even put Raj Thackeray in the dock in the murder case of Ramesh Kini, a Matunga resident who was being forced by his landlords to vacate his house. Raj was absolved but the enmity between the two remained.
When Pawar formed the Nationalist Congress Party after quitting the Congress, he made Bhujbal the first state president of the party. After the 1999 assembly elections, the Congress-NCP formed the government and Bhujbal became deputy chief minister. In 2000, he did what no one had dared to do before: he arrested Bal Thackeray in connection with a case against the Sena organ Saamna in connection with the 1992-93 riots. The court let Thackeray off, but Bhujbal had made his point.
However, three years later, he found himself in trouble over the Telgi stamp paper scam and had to resign from the post. The CBI probed the case and questioned Bhujbal but he came out of that episode unharmed. He even made a comeback when he was made deputy chief minister again in 2009. In 2010, he had to vacate the position for Ajit Pawar but remained minister in charge of public works.
It was his functioning as PWD minister that has now got him in trouble, threatening his career for the third time. Will he manage to make a comeback again? Only time will tell.
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