Galaxy of leaders to attend Bhujbal’s birthday Wednesday

October 14th, 2008 - 6:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyMumbai, Oct 14 (IANS) A number of leaders from various political parties are set to converge here Wednesday to participate in the 61st birthday celebrations of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) strongman and state PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal.A series of programmes have been scheduled for the day, culminating in a grand felicitation ceremony to be held at Shivaji Park, a party leader said.

The political bigwigs expected to attend the function include Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Gopinath Munde, Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah and Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athawale.

Though Bhujbal has maintained a low profile in the past four years, his supporters are hopeful that he would play a crucial role in state politics before and after the next assembly elections.

Bhujbal, who belongs to Other Backward Castes (OBC) category, with humble beginnings as a vegetable vendor, became an activist of the Shiv Sena nearly four decades ago. With his skillful oratory, he quickly rose up the party ranks to become Mumbai mayor and was among the most trusted aides of the Thackeray family.

However, differences cropped up between them and he soon fell out of favour with the Thackerays. In 1993, he stunned the Sena by defecting to the Congress and after the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine came to power, Bhujbal became the leader of opposition in the state assembly.

The Sena never forgave him for his act of deserting the party after working with it for 25 years. The enmity became so strong that Bhujbal’s official home was attacked in 1997 by alleged Shiv Sainiks.

After Pawar quit the Congress to float the NCP, Bhujbal joined him and later became deputy chief minister in the Congress-NCP coalition government.

However, when his name cropped up in the infamous Abdul Karim Telgi fake stamp paper scam, he was forced to step down.

Though Bhujbal has consistently maintained a low profile for the past few years in the NCP, he continued to give uneasy moments to his party. One instance was when he formed a front organisation to unite the OBCs, Samata Parishad, and addressed a rally in New Delhi, fuelling speculation that he might part ways with NCP.

He last made headlines when he decided to withdraw an 11-year-old private defamation case against his former mentor, Bal Thackeray, and even had a brief meeting with Udhav Thackeray. The favour was in response to a plea by Sena bigwigs to withdraw the case considering Thackeray’s age and health conditions.

Wednesday’s birthday celebrations are being organised by the Chhagan Bhujbal Gaurav Samiti, whose convenor is Praful Patel, and joint convenor is state Energy Minister Dilip-Walse Patil.

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