Bhujbal could have become CM in Shiv Sena: Thackeray

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Mumbai, Oct 6 (UNI) Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray today said Maharashtra PWD Minister and NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal could have become the chief minister, had he continued to be in the party.

In an editorial in the party's mouthpiece 'Saamna', titled ''Chhagan sukhat raha'' (Chhagan be happy), Mr Thackeray showered accolades on Mr Bhujbal, despite that the latter had him arrested for a day when he was the home minister.

''Had Bhujbal been there, he would have become the chief minister and Narayan Rane would not have been the CM,'' he pointed out.

In 1995, Sena-BJP government came to power and Sena leader Manohar Joshi became the first chief minister. However, he was removed from the post in February 1999 and was replaced by Narayan Rane. Incidentally, Mr Rane is now in Congress.

Bhujbal, who was in the Sena for 25 years and rose from the ranks of shakha pramukh to be the Mayor of Mumbai twice and MLA, was vying to become Leader of the Opposition, the post which was given to Mr Joshi in 1990. He left the Sena and joined NCP.

Thackeray, who is known not to forgive people who ditch him, however, showed a soft corner that he has for Mr Bhujbal, whom he used to call names such as 'Chhagan'. Mr Bhujbal recently withdrew the defamation case that he had filed against Mr Thackeray.

''Bhujbal was the gutsy fellow and had unfurled the saffron flag at Belgaum, where he had gone in disguise, while being the Mayor of Mumbai,'' Mr Thackeray wrote.

He said Bhujbal left the Sena after he disagreed with the party's stand on Mandal Commission report. What has he got from Mandal and was now suppressed due to the demand of reservation for Marathas in NCP, he said.

''The question now is whether Bhujbal has any strength left in his arms which it was there when he was in the Sena,'' Mr Thackeray pondered and remarked that his entrgy was wasted in in-fighting.

In such a condition, how can he work for the betterment of Maharashtra, he wondered.

UNI JM SSS RSA DS1603

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