The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong smarts under BJP, Sena attacks

Mumbai, March 13: In Mumbai, unlike in Lucknow, legislators don’t have to duck microphones hurled at them in the Assembly. They have to fend off vicious personal attacks instead.

Yesterday, Shiv Sena’s Narayan Rane accused deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal of links with the underworld and claimed police had tapes to prove he was in touch with the likes of Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel. Today, the BJP said the Congress-NCP coalition was “a government of and for criminals”.'

Chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and his coalition government have so far been unable to launch a convincing counter attack on the Opposition.

Rane’s attack on Bhujbal was so severe the deputy chief minister rushed back to the Assembly from an appointment, after hearing of it from a colleague. Offering to resign if the allegations were proved correct, Bhujbal said he had not been give time by the Opposition to prepare a counter argument.

Shinde made a frantic call to the police commissioner and got back to the House in the evening with a disclaimer. “I called up the police chief. They say they have no such tapes. Rane’s allegations are not true,’’ he said.

In one of the more caustic statements, Rane said he would not be surprised if some local residents fired at Ramtek, Bhujbal’s official residence. “I won’t be surprised if people attack Ramtek, which should actually be called Ravantek, because there is so much anguish among the general public (against Bhujbal),” the Sena leader said.

Not to be left behind, BJP’s Gopinath Munde today took off where Rane had left. Accusing the government of patronising criminals, Munde said his allegations were backed by proof.

Pointing out the “VIP treatment” meted out to Abdul Karim Telgi, the main accused in a multi-crore stamp paper racket, the BJP said the government has a lot of explaining to do. It alleged that Telgi stayed in his own house with bodyguards while interrogation was on.

In a frenetic damage control exercise, the government said four city crime branch officials have been suspended following reports that Telgi was staying at his south Mumbai home despite being in police custody.

Bhujbal, who seemed to find his voice today, told the Assembly that the government had in fact made “special efforts’’ to bring Telgi from his hideout in Karnataka.

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