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|October 18, 1999||
The man Thackeray loves to hate
For Chhagan Chandrakant Bhujbal, the rise from a corporator in the Brihan Mumbai Muncipal Corporation to the deputy chief minister's post of a developed state like Maharashtra is phenomenal. He has done it, for the most part, due to sheer grit.
A person with varied interests ranging from business to films, 52-year-old Bhujbal is a mechanical engineering diploma holder from the prestigious VJTI in Bombay.
A firebrand Shiv Sainik and a trusted lieutenant of the Sena chief Bal Thackeray, Bhujbal, who hails from the backward Mali community, fell out with his political mentor over the implementation of the Mandal Commission report in 1991.
He joined the Congress party after splitting the Shiv Sena thus earning the undying wrath of Thackeray. He became close to Sharad Pawar and was the housing minister in the cabinet of Sudhakarrao Naik and Pawar. He had to face a shocking defeat in 1995 assembly elections at the hands of a political novice, Bala Nandgaonkar in the labour-dominated Mazgaon assembly segment which he had represented since 1985.
He was rehabilitated by Pawar in the legislative council and went on to become the leader of the opposition in the upper house. In the coming years, Bhujbal became the nemesis of the saffron alliance, specially Thackeray.
By unearthing corruption cases against its ministers and making fiery speeches in the legislative council he gave the saffron party leaders sleepless nights. Bhujbal shot into prominence when he alleged the involvement of Raj Thackeray, nephew of the Sena chief, in the sensational Ramesh Kini murder case in 1996.
Bhujbal almost single-handedly took on the Sena-BJP on almost every issue -- be it the deteriorating law and order situation in Bombay in 1998, the Srikrishna Commission report or the killing of ten Dalits in police firing at the Ramabai Nagar colony in Ghatkopar in 1997.
When Pawar raised the banner of revolt against Sonia Gandhi over her foreign origins, Bhujbal quietly followed his mentor and became the president of the state unit of the newly floated Nationalist Congress Party. He even made liberal use of his official bungalow A-10, opposite Mantralaya, for party purposes and now he has become so emotional about the house that he says he would find it difficult to move in to the bigger bungalow Ramtek meant for the deputy chief minister.
In 1997, the residence of Bhujbal as well as that of the leader of opposition in the previous assembly Madhukarrao Pichad were attacked allegedly by Shiv Sainiks. Bhujbal's continuous attack on the Sena-BJP government for the killing of ten Dalits was reportedly the provocation.
Born on October 15, 1947 in Nashik, Bhujbal is an avid theatre, film, music and cricket buff. His family comprises of his wife Meena and son Pankaj. He is actively involved in the wholesale trading of fruits and vegetables.
Bhujbal is also the president of a social organisation, Mahatma Phule Samata Parishad, which strives for social justice. He was instrumental in setting up statues of Mahatma Phule in many parts of the state.
Bhujbal also has many social commitments. He is the founder chairman of the Mumbai Educational Trust in Bandra. He is actively involved in the development of primary and secondary educational institutions, libraries, hospital complexes and also in the promotion of repair and reconstruction of dilapidated buildings. in Bombay.
In 1973, he became a corporator in BMC and later went on to become the leader of opposition in the civic body and later mayor for two terms.
He has been a state cabinet minister since 1991: first as revenue minister in the Sudhakarrao Naik government and later as housing minister in the Sharad Pawar government. He was elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Council in 1996 and was the leader of the opposition till his elevation as the leader of the Nationalist Congress Legislative Party yesterday.
Incidently, Bhujbal had defeated Vilasrao Deshmukh who had contested as an independent to enter the upper house of the state legislature. Now both have joined hands to form the Congress-NCP coalition government.
He was the prime negotiator in the talks between his party and the Congress for the formation of the government. The continuing deadlock was resolved an hour before the Congress was to meet the governor and submit its list of supporting MLAs. The decision was announced by Bhujbal himself. When asked who finally gave in, Bhujbal replied, ''na koi hara, na koi jeeta ''(nobody won, nobody lost).
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