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Home > News > Report

Chhagan Bhujbal set to join Congress

BS Regional Bureau | August 03, 2004 11:43 IST

Former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal seems to be headed into the Congress party fold, even as his own party (Nationalist Congress Party) is trying to placate him.

In addition Bhujbal is also in talks with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD). Both these parties are keen to get a foothold in Maharashtra's political society.

Bhujbal, who is reportedly in Pachoura, will arrive in Pune on Tuesday morning before proceeding to New Delhi where he is scheduled to meet NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

He will also meet senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, who is the general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) and a political advisor to Sonia Gandhi.

According to a well placed source, Bhujbal has more or less decided to exiting the NCP and join the Congress. This is despite opposition from the Congress' Maratha lobby led by former chief minister Vilasrao Dehmukh and former Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Ranjit Deshmukh.

Bhujbal feels his growth is being deliberately being stunted within the NCP. Pawar, incidentally, only yesterday set Bhujbal's political juggernaut rolling by daring him to leave the party.

For the Congress, the recent debacle when it lost 10 of the 11 Lok Sabha seats in the Vidarbha region is seen as a strong factor for roping in Bhujbal who had defected along with 16 Shiv Sena MLAs to the NCP.

Most of these MLAs were from the Vidarbha region. The `Mali' community (of which Bhujbal is a part) is a strong electorate in the Vidarbha region and the forthcoming Assembly elections will see them play a pivotal role (along with other backward castes) in deciding the make up of the new government in the state.

During the last four-and-a-half years Bhujbal (as deputy chief minister in the Democratic Front government), had made considerable progress in galvanizing backward caste MLAs within the NCP to counter the `Maratha' lobby that was working towards effecting his ouster.

Maharashtra's minister for higher education Laxman Dhoble (NCP) has already announced his decision to leave the party and join the Congress. The minister for tribal welfare Madhukarrao Picchad is also likely to follow suit.

Meanwhile, the NCP has set in motion efforts to reconcile with Bhujbal as it is worried about the number of senior leaders who may defect with him to the Congress. Bhujbal's ability at pulling off such a coup is a known fact.

He had defected into the NCP along with 16 Shiv Sena MLAs.

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