In the run-up to the 2004 Maharashtra assembly elections,
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders from Yeola - a small town
20 kms to the Manmad Railway Junction in Nashik district of North
Maharashtra, were in Mumbai for seeking the party ticket. There,
they learnt that Chagan Bhujbal, the party veteran and once Sharad Pawar's blue-eyed boy, was searching for a safe seat.
Perhaps the lady luck, first time in
its history, was on the
sides of Yeola. In a sudden change of mind, the local leaders shun
their differences, called on Bhujbal and requested him to fight the election from the town.
"Come and contest the election from
Yeola and we will take care of the rest everything to make sure
that you win", the leaders, who a little while ago were fighting
with each other to get the party ticket, said to Bhujbal in one
Rest all is a history.
Yeola, a town with a population of
less than one lakh people had always been neglected by successive
governments in terms of basic infrastructure, amenities and
industrial growth. The local textile industry was devoid of any
charm. The Paithani sarees which once attracted buyers from all
across the world found no takers. Migration of people from the
town was a routine. But the town selected Bhujbal, "an outsider"
to represent it in the Maharashtra assembly, and in return earned
a remarkable and speedy transformation and huge pumping of funds
for the constituency.
It was the time when a war was going
on within the Pawar family. Pawar by sending to the Parliament his
daughter made it very clear who would be his successor. His nephew
Ajit Pawar was upset. To pacify him he elevated his stature in the
Maharashtra and party politics. The immediate victim of this war
was Chagan Bhujbal. Hence, while giving Yeola a totally new look
and a fresh identity, he simultaneously began spreading his wings and clout in the entire Nashik district.
People in Nashik, however, were not as convivial as those in Yeola.
Moreover, to build a base in Nashik - a strong base shared equally by Shiv-Sena and Maratha leaders, was not an easy task for Bhujbal,
a leader known for his Other
Backward Caste (OBC) roots. Hence it was of little surprise when Bhujbal
besides facing strong challenge from the opposition parties, had
to face tough competition from his own
party. But, the power game began and
by the time the 2009 Parliamentary and Assembly elections were
announced, not only had he consolidated his position in the
district but his nephew Sameer and son Pankaj were also ready to
try their chances in politics.
In the 2009 Maharashtra assembly
polls, Pankaj contested from Nandgaon - a little known town
located very near to his father's constituency Yeola. Due to the
remarkable work his father did in the region he easily sailed
through the elections and entered the state assembly. But, the real fight for the Bhujbals
was reserved in Nashik where Sameer was contesting the
parliamentary elections. A total of 22 candidates were in the
Sameer faced the main challenge from Shiv Sena's
Datta Gaikwad and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate Hemant
Godse. Also against Sameer was a strong group of leaders from all
parties who were dead against the entry of "an outsider of Mali samaj" in the Nashik politics.
Nonetheless, nothing worked for
the opposition and as the results were announced Sameer was in the parliament.
the elections, the Bhujbal trio tirelessly worked for the
development of the region and most of the time without limiting to
their constituencies. Their strong support to the campaign going on
since last three years for establishment of the Aligarh Muslim
University (AMU) sub centre near Malegaon is just one example in
Coming at this backdrop, the
success in the recently held civic elections may not be
surprising for the Bhujbals. Though it will undoubtedly help them
to further consolidate their base in the region. But for the
local leaders, there is a clear and very strong message in these
results. If they continue to remain incompetent and insensitive to
local sentiments and issues, people are not averse to the
coronation of leaders "imported" from other regions.