he senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal was not only kept in jail for two years but he was also humiliated and misbehaved by the cops on several occasions. He was booked in a money laundering case but recently was granted bail by the court. Bhujbal, who was arrested in March 2016, had to pay a personal bond of Rs 5 lakh to secure his bail. Certain conditions were imposed on Bhujbal’s release on bail, including that he will appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) whenever summoned for questioning. Citing ailing health, Bhujbal had approached the High Court in January this year seeking bail on the ground that his custody was not required anymore as the charge sheet has already been filed. Bhujbal and his nephew Sameer Bhujbal used to channel money to the illegal companies owned by them, the agency had alleged. The politician who has come a long way, from being a one-time vegetable vendor to one of the most powerful politicians in the state, was put behind the bars to face the dishonour.
The Maharashtra Sadan scam, the Kalina library land case and embezzlement of funds and misuse of property in the Mumbai Educational Trust case together may prove too much for the feisty OBC leader to battle. He had to answer for the alleged kickbacks in the Public Works Department and for amassing several properties. This time the finger points at Bhujbal helping his whole family. The state Anti-Corruption Bureau has even named him in its FIR. After enjoying a long run in politics, Bhujbal may have been looking forward to spending his evenings listening to his favourite old Hindi film songs. But he now has to clean up the mess created by his family members. A man who got Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray arrested, failed to rein in his son Pankaj and nephew Sameer.
Bhujbal, who lived on his terms, loved to live the way he wants — a very filmy way. Once he had gone in for a complete image makeover — he had gone under the knife, to get a wrinkle free neck and face. He opted for the workout, at the same time gathered many riches through various treaties. Rumours began to circulate about Bhujbal’s nephew Sameer, being involved in corrupt deals, and slowly even Pankaj’s name cropped up. Earlier, in 2004, Bhujbal had to step down as the deputy chief minister and lost his reputation in the multi-crore Abdul Karim Telgi fake stamp paper case. Bhujbal was then told by his mentor Sharad Pawar to control his nephew or else Bhujbal’s credibility and career both would be ruined. But we all know that blood is thicker than water, especially in politics where it has been proven time and again.
Bhujbal was arrogant and thankless; he was never in good books of people or his people. NCP as a party has allowed its leaders to rule independently in their constituencies, to treat them as their own fiefdoms – Ajit Pawar, Supriya Sule, Sunil Tatkare, Chhagan Bhujbal to name just a few. They were taught a harsh lesson in the last several elections, but these leaders have received far too much patronage from their mentor. However, the once crafty Pawar could not see his own kin and partymen ruining the party he formed. When he returned after the Telgi scam, Bhujbal felt a bit abbreviated, let down by his mentor, and started getting nostalgic. He realised that the late Bal Thackeray was the only true leader who understood him. Leaders like Ajit Pawar grew stronger in the NCP and they baited Bhujbal for going soft on the Shiv Sena. Finally, in 2014, when Devendra Fadanvis launched an attack on NCP’s corruption, Pawar sacrificed Bhujbal over Ajit Pawar. Bhujbal is a lonely man today. He fell out with Uddhav Thackeray and also lost a friend in Raj after the arrest of Thackeray Sr., Bhujbal got an immense support from the citizenry, though many from his own party did not support the arrest. It is a known fact that Pawar and Thackeray were friends and Pawar politically helped the Sena and Thackeray. Today, Uddhav is completely driven by Pawar. Pawar indeed supported Bhujbal too last time when he was in trouble, but not this time. Worse, his rivals within the NCP want him finished.
Bhujbal’s battle is a lonely and hard one. He undervalued Kirit Somaiya and Anjali Damania and their allegations. Bhujbal took for granted that he could not be touched, but he had to face the music.
There was a time when Bhujbal was feared in the corridors of power. Shiv Sena leader and former state chief minister Manohar Joshi dreaded the very sight of Bhujbal when he became the leader of the opposition after breaking away from the Sena. On his way up the political ladder, Bhujbal helped many, but after moving to the top he forgot that it gets very lonely out there. He really has no true friends. He distanced from Shiv Sainiks after he left the Sena. The rivalries he made because of his failure to rein in his nephew and son have left Bhujbal alone to fight a long and staining battle. However, Bhujbal has always fought back in the past; he will do it yet again. Bhujbal’s son Pankaj met Uddhav Thackeray five days after Chhagan Bhujbal was granted bail. Are there possibilities of Chhagan Bhujbal shifting his political ideology? NCP is paying price for the utter failure by the Congress-led government in Maharashtra. Once these turncoats decimated the parties they were in, now they are out to repeat the same with BJP and Sena with their presence that is inevitably going to happen with admitting them back to their fold.
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