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The rise and rise of the Bhujbals

Thursday December 15, 2011 05:11:26 PM, Aleem Faizee,

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The Bhujbals triumph

As Maharashtra completed the first round of civic elections with the Cong-NCP combine stamping a convincing victory, the one district results of which were keenly awaited by friends and foes alike was Nashik. For, here the elections were 

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No Smooth Sailing for Sameer Bhujbal in Nashik

Malegaon: 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 voice.


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 fray, but 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.


After winning 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 this regard.


Coming at this backdrop, the spectacular 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.







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