With Chhagan Bhujbal set to return to state politics, all eyes are now on his next move. Many are anticipating that he will dump his current party, NCP.
However, sources close to him say that he has noticed the vacuum in the state as far as the strongest and senior-most OBC leader is concerned. By playing the caste card carefully and patiently, he could change the political narrative of the state.
There are indications that Mr Bhujbal may galvanise cadre across parties under his banner, Akhil Bharatiya Mahatma Phule Samata Parishad.
After the sudden demise of BJP leader Gopinath Munde, Mr Bhujbal was the strongest and senior-most leader of the OBC community in the state. However, with him in prison for the past two years, many faces emerged during that time within the community.
A significant portion of the community is divided between Pankaja Munde, cabinet minister and political heir of Gopinath Munde, and her cousin and NCP leader, Dhananjay Munde.
But the seniority and authority of Mr Bhujbal is far greater than these two prominent OBC faces in the state.
Senior political expert Anant Dikshit said, “The OBC community is as of now largely with the Bharatiya Janata Party. But yes, there was sympathy for Mr Bhujbal within the community. So, if he decides to cash in on that sympathy politically, it will definitely change the political scenario of the state. But will he be able to do that with full force considering the pressure of all the legalities in his case.”
There has been buzz for a long time now that Mr Bhujbal is unhappy with the NCP leadership which did not help him or take care of him during his jail tenure as it should have done.
But he has the option of the Samata Parishad, which has strong presence in the OBC community in the state.