Mumbai, Dec. 23: After braving a barrage of allegations about involvement in the stamp paper scam, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal today resigned over an attack on a television channel’s office here.
A group of around 50 supporters of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ransacked Zee Television Network’s office for showing a programme critical of their leader, Bhujbal.
Bhujbal resigned owning up “moral responsibility” for the vandalism, the kind of which Mumbai is not unfamiliar with. Though it appeared that he was using the opportunity offered by the incident to step down without egg all over his face, Bhujbal denied his decision was related to the stamp paper scandal.
“Even when I was not a minister, I was heavily critical of any such attacks on the media or Opposition parties. Now when I am the home minister of the state... it is my responsibility to give protection,” he said.
Under pressure to get rid of Bhujbal, NCP chief Sharad Pawar quickly called a news conference to emphasise the resignation was not related to the scam. “An attack on the media is a very serious issue,” he said.
The Opposition, which picked Bhujbal for target practice in the just-concluded winter session of the Assembly, was not buying this version, though.
Narayan Rane of the Shiv Sena said: “He resigned because otherwise he would have been arrested…. He is lying even on his way out.”
Rane had waved a letter in the Assembly purportedly written by an inspector, now behind bars for involvement in scam, pointing a finger of accusation at Bhujbal.
This was followed by the lawyer of Abdul Karim Telgi, the mastermind of the scam, firing the same allegation in Delhi last week.
It was clear that Bhujbal had become a liability for the government but, at the same time, quitting over such allegations would have meant accepting them to be true.
Now it seems the attack on Zee, in which 10 persons were hurt with two in hospital, sat heavier on his conscience than the weight of a scam that is at least as big as Rs 3,000 crore and could be 10 times that amount.
Bhujbal’s supporters descended on the network’s Andheri office, angry at Zee News reports on the scam and a programme on Alpha Marathi, which is a satire called Ghadla Bighadla.
On Sunday night, it showed a match-up in which Mr Armstrong (English for Bhujbal) was a puppet character.