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Bhujbal in hospital ahead of House trial

Mumbai, Dec. 15: Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, accused of playing a role in the Rs 39,000-crore stamp paper scam, was rushed to hospital today after complaining of “uneasiness and chest pain”.

Moments after news of his hospitalisation trickled out, it was rumoured that the Nationalist Congress Party leader had been ordered to quit.

But Bhujbal and chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde both denied this.

“I don’t know about it. Anyway, if he (Bhujbal) does resign, he will talk to the Speaker and to the NCP, not to me,” the chief minister said.

His designer suit-loving, self-confessed narcissist deputy was rushed to Breach Candy hospital here earlier in the day after having a check-up last evening at a hospital in Nagpur, where he was to attend what promised to be a stormy Assembly session. Bhujbal was flown to Mumbai, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit. He was later advised three to four days of bedrest.

Putting up a brave front, the deputy chief minister said: “I had some uneasiness last night and met some doctors in Nagpur. But as you know, all doctors refer VVIPs to hospitals in Mumbai. There is nothing to worry about. I will soon be out.”

The cynics said it was little surprise that Bhujbal was not feeling good considering he has been in the eye of a storm since Friday when an Opposition leader produced a letter written by an indicted police inspector. The letter alleged that scam mastermind Abdul Karim Telgi was given special treatment — on orders from Bhujbal and his nephew Samir — when brought here on police remand.

Opposition BJP and Shiv Sena leaders suggested that the NCP leader had faked illness — he had complained of high blood pressure — to avoid a grilling at the winter Assembly session.

An NCP colleague agreed that Bhujbal’s absence from the Assembly could be helpful. “Abhi bahar ki hawa bahut garam ho gayee unke liye, hospital me AC ki hawa lenge, badhiya rahega (It’s too hot for Bhujbal outside, he’ll be more comfortable in the air-conditioned environs of the hospital),” the leader added.

Bhujbal has been in the dock ever since Narayan Rane, leader of the Opposition, produced a letter allegedly written by inspector Dilip Kamath, himself in jail in connection with the stamp paper scam.

The NCP leader has responded by terming the letter a fake. “It’s a conspiracy against my family and the government of Maharashtra. The handwriting of the letter-writer and the signature along with the concluding line, which says ‘yours faithfully’, do not match. I have called for a detailed report and will address this issue in the Assembly,” Bhujbal said.

The account provided by former director-general of police Subhash Malhotra last Thursday to the special investigation team probing the scam has made the going more difficult for the deputy chief minister.

Malhotra, the Maharashtra police chief when the scam came to light two years ago, said an order to give a clean chit to indicted former Mumbai police chief R.S. Sharma had come from the home department, a portfolio Bhujbal holds.

An NCP leader known to be a Bhujbal-baiter said: “He is better off in hospital, there are just too many questions being asked of him.”

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