Show of strength in Parli brings into focus fault-lines within State unit of BJP; Khadse, Patil present at rally
Dismissing all talk of exiting the party and staging a revolt, former Minister and BJP leader Pankaja Munde’s rally in Beed district on her father late Gopinath Munde’s birth anniversary on Thursday has sharpened the political fault-lines within the State unit of the party.
The Swabhiman rally at Gopinathgadh in Parli turned into a massive show of strength with Ms. Munde and disgruntled senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse training their guns on the party’s State leadership, while launching thinly veiled attacks on former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
“Who said I was to leave the party? Whose expectation is it that I exit the BJP? Who is spreading these canards about me being upset? How can I be accused of staging a revolt when I was the one who was campaigning hard for the victory of every candidate till the last minute? Who is spreading these rumours that I am pressurising the BJP for any post?” she asked, urging BJP State unit president Chandrakant Patil, who was on the dais, to pull up those who were attempting to slander her.
‘Not after any position’
Ms. Munde stressed she was “not hankering after any position within the party” and asked Mr. Patil that she be relieved from her position in the BJP core committee as well.
On her future course of action, Ms. Munde said, “I will re-inaugurate my late father’s office in Sukhada in Mumbai on January 26, will go to the masses and address the problems of farmers, and take up issues afflicting Marathwada through the Gopinath Munde Trust in the capacity of an ordinary party worker.”
Ms. Munde, who was defeated in the recent Assembly polls by her estranged cousin, Dhananjay Munde of the NCP from the family stronghold in Parli, said that she would also sit on a symbolic fast in Aurangabad district on January 27.
“I will not leave the party. I will tour the State and take up problems facing ordinary people after January 26. A mere electoral defeat is nothing compared to the personal loss after my father’s untimely death [in June 2014],” she said.
Since the conclusion of Assembly polls, there has been a rift in the State leadership with the top brass fearing a possible intra-party revolt by OBC leaders led by Eknath Khadse, Ms. Munde, former Minister Prakash Mehta and others who were either denied a ticket or faced upset defeats in the election.
The OBC leaders blame Mr. Fadnavis for engineering their defeats and denying them tickets.
“This [BJP] party does not belong to any single person…even Prime Minister Modi has said he is but an ordinary worker of the BJP. So, it is our responsibility to see that the party moves forward and not in reverse gear,” Ms. Munde said, adding that she would fight on in the future, come what may.
Today’s rally comes against the background of a Facebook post by Ms. Munde on December 1 wherein she had called for a meeting of her supporters to discuss her “future journey” in wake of changed political equations in the State. She had also removed ‘BJP’ from her Twitter bio, sparking speculation of her possible exit.
In his speech, Mr. Khadse reiterated his allegation that Ms. Munde’s defeat from Parli, and his daughter Rohini Khadse’s loss from the Muktainagar seat, was “engineered” by sections within the party. He said there was a ‘conspiracy’ to ensure the defeats of Ms. Munde and his daughter, Rohini Khadse.
“There clearly was politics behind not giving a ticket to me. For 30 years I have been with the late Mr. Munde. He gave me tremendous respect,” he said, reminiscing how the late leader had tolerated his mistakes, had fought for him and encouraged him.
“Mr. Munde never plunged a dagger behind anyone’s back…he was an open-hearted leader who raised an ordinary worker to the heights of power. But today’s BJP leadership is not open-hearted,” he said, adding that the BJP’s present condition was “not acceptable to the people of Maharashtra”.
Without taking Mr. Fadnavis’s name, Mr. Khadse hit out at the current leaders for not being a party that promoted “collective decision-making”.
“Pankaja may not express it, but I understand her pain. I am hurt that Gopinath Munde’s daughter has lost from Parli…Why is that we [OBC leaders within the BJP] are feeling stifled? This is tantamount to asking us to leave the party. Now, if I talk too much, the party might take disciplinary action against me…Already, they had cut my ticket [in the Assembly polls],” he said.
All top leaders from Marathwada were present at the occasion as was State unit president Chandrakant Patil and Rashtriya Samaj Paksha chief and influential Dhangar leader, Mahadev Jankar, who is close to Ms. Munde and her family.
However, Mr. Fadnavis was conspicuous by his absence. Before the rally, Mr. Patil had a closed-door meeting with Ms. Munde in the presence of Mr. Khadse.
At the rally, Mr. Patil urged the disaffected leaders to not take out their anger on the party. “Why vent at the party when a few individuals are responsible for your misfortune. Quarrels within the family should not fought in the streets,” he said.
Stating that he understood Mr. Khadse’s ‘pain’, Mr. Patil assured that his complaints would be resolved.
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