MUMBAI: Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal’s son Pankaj today met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at his residence here, triggering speculations on whether the Sena has mellowed down its stand on the Shiv Sainik-turned NCP stalwart who was recently granted bail in a money laundering case.
A Shiv Sena source privy to the meeting said Thackeray advised Pankaj to take care of his ailing father who is in hospital.
Bhujbal had long been a persona non grata of the Sena leadership since he left the Bal Thackeray-fonded party in 1991.
Notably, the Sena had yesterday said Bhujbal’s arrest in a money laundering case and subsequent incarceration was “fate’s revenge” against him for his bid, when he was the state Home minister, to put Sena founder Bal Thackeray behind bars.
“It was just a 15-minute courtesy call by Pankaj Bhujbal. There was no political discussion during the meeting,” a Shiv Sena legislator told PTI.
The meeting comes five days after Bhujbal, the former deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, was granted bail by the Bombay High Court in a money laundering case.
Indicating softening of the party stand vis-a-vis Bhujbal, party spokesperson Sanjay Raut said, “Had (Chhagan) Bhujbal been in the Sena today, such fate would not have befallen on him. Bhujbal is a political adversary, but we do not have personal enmity.
“Those who deserted late Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray, each of them ended in misery. Karti Chidambaram, the son of P Chidambaram gets bail within eight days in a money laundering case. Then why it took one-and-half-years for Bhujbal to get the bail?”
The meeting between Pankaj and Thackeray also assumes significance as it comes days before the May 21 elections to the Nashik Local Authorities constituency in the legislative council.
The Bhujbals have a strong support base in Nashik district.
However, a Sena legislator said the meeting was a 15-minute courtesy call by Pankaj Bhujbal.
“There was no political discussion during the meeting,” the legislator told PTI.
The leader recalled that Bhujbal, despite quitting the Sena, had made a courtesy call on late party supremo Bal Thackeray in 2007.
Asked if there was a possibility of Bhujbal shifting his political ideology after having been granted bail, the leader said it was highly unlikely.
“(NCP chief) Sharad Pawar did a lot for Chhagan Bhujbal even after he was jailed. There is a slim chance of him betraying Pawar now,” he said.
Bhujbal, a firebrand Shivsainik, had left the Sena after Manohar Joshi was made the leader of opposition in the Maharashtra legislative assembly.
The divide grew wider as Bhujbal after becoming home minister in 1999 vowed to put Bal Thackeray behind bars over his speeches and editorials in the party mouthpiece.
Another Sena leader, requesting anonymity, said Bhujbal had buried hatchets with the Sena chief by meeting him in 2007, more than 16 years after leaving the party.
Bhujbal, 70, in jail since March 2016, was granted bail on May 4 by the Bombay High Court after it took into consideration his old age and deteriorating health.
Bhujbal, currently undergoing treatment at civic-run KEM hospital here, is likely to address a rally in Pune on June 10 when the opposition NCP’s ‘hulla bol’ (attack) yatra would culminate.
Bhujbal, who handled the Public Works Department in the Congress-NCP government, was arrested in March 2016 after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) found in an inquiry that he allegedly misused his office in awarding contracts for PWD projects, causing a loss to the exchequer.
Source: Press Trust of India