Finally, once again Chhagan Bhujbal is arrested. This is not the first time he has been arrested, earlier too, he visited jail in the multi crore Telgi stamp paper scam in 2003-04. However, he came out unscratched though a high profile CBI investigation was carried out. He made a successful comeback in the Congress-NCP government as the Public Works Development (PWD) Minister and also for a short time as the Deputy CM for the second time, since 1999. This was purely due to the confidence shown by his mentor and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Now, after BJP came to power NCP supremo compromised Bhujbal over his nephew Ajit Pawar. Senior Pawar could have saved him this time too because there is no OBC powerful mass leader of his status in the party.
Bhujbal was an ordinary street vegetable vendor and after great struggle he became high profile politician. However, he failed to realise the limits of his ravenousness as he pursued his passion to think big. His biggest mistake was that he relied heavily on his nephew Sameer Bhujbal, who often landed him in controversies. Incidentally, Sameer, who was the NCP MP from Nashik seat during 2009-14, was already taken into custody by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) last month in connection with money laundering and corrupt practices. Bhujbal, who had assumed the office of Mumbai Mayor twice during his days in Shiv Sena, preferred to retain the money-spinning Public Works Department notorious for transfers, promotions and road contracts. Sameer had allegedly played a key role in recommending names of aspirants on plum posts and even reinstatement of some suspended officers.
Further, Bhujbal led PWD stuck Rs. 124 Crore deal with a leading business house involved in real estate, infrastructure to build a library for the Mumbai University at Kalina allowing the same company to build flats on the rest of the plot. In lieu, the same company donated Rs. 2.5 crore to the Bhujbal Foundation. Bhujbal continued to hit headlines for large sum of cash allegedly laundered with the help of hawala operators into shell companies floated by Sameer. The ED probe has revealed that over a dozen companies based out of Kolkata bought shares in companies fully owned by the Bhujbals on unrealistic premiums which subsequently was channeled through several other companies to launch projects like the Hex World housing project in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. The allegation against the Bhujbals – including son Pankaj and nephew Sameer – these Kolkata based companies were floated to reroute the bribes taken while awarding the contracts. Meanwhile, Bhujbal tried to put up a brave front arguing that there is nothing wrong in various contracts awarded and the formation of shell companies. Incidentally, Bhujbal’s mentor and guide Sharad Pawar also came out in support alleging that the BJP led government was playing vendetta politics. However, Bhujbal, who had dared to arrest his ‘God’ and the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in 2000 in connection with a case against the Sena mouthpiece for inciting the 1992-93 riots, had come to the realisation that tough days are ahead for him. ED had filed two FIRs on June 17, 2015 against him, Pankaj and Sameer for alleged money laundering. Their career will depend upon how the political leadership in Maharashtra takes it further.
Bhujbal was Minister of Public Works & Special Assistance Department (excluding Public Undertaking) Maharashtra State and Guardian Minister for Nashik District. He was a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Yeola Assembly Constituency. He started his political career with the Shiv Sena in 1960s. He left the party in 1991 and joined the Indian National Congress (INC). Later, after the Congress leader Sharad Pawar decided to split from the party and form his own party, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bhujbal went along with him. Bhujbal is an Other Backward Class (OBC) leader and has mass base in Maharashtra. He belongs to Mali caste. Before entering politics, he was a vegetable vendor in Byculla Market where his mother used to sell fruits in a small shop. After Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from VJTI, Bombay and being influenced by Shiv Sena’s philosophy and more particularly by the die-hard personality of Shiv Sena Supremo Balasaheb Thackeray, Bhujbal was evolved into a hard core Shiv Sainik. Before he was elected as Shiv Sena Corporator in 1973, Bhujbal had already established his reputation as outspoken, dare devil and fearless leader of the Sena brigade. During his work as Corporator, Bhujbal maintained consistent contact, communication with rank and file of his constituency and its neighbourhood.
Between 1973–1984, Bhujbal became the undisputed leader of the Shiv Sena-led opposition in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. He was amongst initial members of Shiv Sena and worked enthusiastically to spread Shiv Sena in nooks and corners of Maharashtra. He was duly rewarded for hard work put in party building. He first became a Corporator in BMC and was later elected as Mayor of Mumbai. He remained in Shiv Sena for 25 years and rose from Shakha Pramukh (Branch Head) and worked twice as Mayor of Mumbai. He was amongst earliest MLA’s of Shiv Sena elected from Mazgaon first in 1985 and again in 1990. It is these endearing qualities that helped Bhujbal become the first twice-elected Mayor of India’s urbs prima – Mumbai.
To the city of Mumbai, where he spent his childhood and got his early bearings for survival despite all odds, Bhujbal wanted to offer a fitting payback on assuming Mayorship of the city. Being devoted to the cause of Marathi speaking community and Mumbai’s beautification, he evolved his campaign for ‘Sundar Mumbai, Marathi Mumbai’. As part of this campaign, Bhujbal took bold steps to contain the rapid concretisation and pollution that was beginning to threaten Mumbai. He initiated a campaign for planting trees in open spaces and identifying public squares and gardens, while creating beautifully landscaped island-gardens at traffic signals and road dividers. This unique feat of injecting much-needed greenery into a polluted and cemented urban landscape earned him appreciation from all quarters.
With his landmark campaign to make Mumbai city green and pollution-free, Bhujbal actually pioneered the concept of public-private partnership, a revolutionary idea that would go a long way in helping the Mumbai Municipal Corporation and later, the Government of Maharashtra. On Monday, Chhagan Bhujbal was questioned by Enforcement Directorate for nine hours and was arrested later. Let’s see, once again whether he comes out clean or this time his fate will not work for him.
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