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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Setback for Maharashtra coalition
Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray
Bal Thackeray's release has embarassed Chaghan Bhujbal
By BBC News Online's Santosh Sinha

While the Shiv Sena has been rejoicing over a court decision to dismiss a case against its leader, Bal Thackeray, the outcome has deeply embarrassed the Maharashtra state government.

Deputy Chief Minister Chaghan Bhujbal, for one, saw the indictment of Mr Thackeray by a judicial commission as a good chance to settle scores with his one-time mentor.

Mr Bhujbal had been a member of the Shiv Sena before he fell out with its rather mercurial leader.

He joined the Congress party in 1992 and led the party's political attacks on the Shiv Sena.

In 1999, he left the Congress to join the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar and became Maharashtra's deputy chief minister when the Congress-NCP coalition assumed power in the state this year.

It was Mr Bhujbal who announced, 10 days ago, that the Maharashtra Government had decided to prosecute Mr Thackeray for his alleged role in anti-Muslim riots in Bombay, in 1992.

Analysts say Mr Bhujbal was advised that the charges against Mr Thackeray were too old for a case to proceed, but he decided to go ahead nevertheless.

His coalition partners were initially reluctant but joined in later so that the action was seen as a government decision, and not just as Mr Bhujbal's personal campaign.

Uncertainty

All this caused an atmosphere of uncertainty in Bombay, with the Shiv Sena threatening violence if its leader was arrested.

Over the past 10 days, there were efforts from within the NCP and Congress to make Mr Bhujbal retract from his position but he was adamant.

One newspaper reported that when Delhi refused to provide him with additional police personnel, he threatened to redeploy police personnel guarding sensitive installations like the nuclear complex and the airport.

With the court now ruling that the case was not legally sound, Mr Bhujbal and his colleagues in the NCP may have a lot of explaining to do.

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See also:

23 Jul 00 | South Asia
Indian law minister resigns
20 Jul 00 | South Asia
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21 Jul 00 | South Asia
Bombay riot incitement case adjourned
15 Jul 00 | South Asia
Hindu militant faces court
19 Jul 00 | South Asia
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