Mumbai: Gopinath Pandurang Munde was at the centre stage of the state politics ever since he established himself as an opponent of NCP strongman Sharad Pawar in early 90s. Before that his identity was a brother-in-law of BJP leader late Pramod Mahajan. His tenure as the opposition leader in state assembly from 1992-95 was one of the most volatile period in state politics and this typical village lad reached every household in Maharashtra.
Late Gopinath Munde. File Pic
His early exit from the state political scene is too shocking for his party BJP that nurtured him and only parallel to similar exits of Pramod Mahajan and Congress man Vilasrao Deshmukh, who was his close buddy.
The Meteoric rise of this leader who started his career at Parli, a tiny town in Beed district, has always been a fascinating journey. It was because he established himself at a time when Congress and left parties were having a firm grip on local politics, which was laced with some or the other kind of political terrorism. He made his mark by winning his first state assembly election in 1980. Before that he was member of the local panchayat.
A typical village lad from Nathra, a small hamlet near Parli, he went to Pune to pursue his higher studies and came into contact with Vilasrao Deshmukh while studying at Law College. Being an ardent supporter of RSS, Munde was regular visitor to the organisation's local office in Pune. His association with late Pramod Mahajan, who was native of Ambajogai, a town just a few kilometres away from Parli brought revolutionary changes in his life. The friendship slowly turned in a relationship when Munde decided to marry Mahajan's sister Pradnya.
Munde lost state assembly election in 1985 but the then BJP leaders such as Vasantrao Bhagwat, in Maharashtra, were looking towards him as the party's rural face. He was groomed as BJP's OBC face with an appointment as the state unit chief at a very young age. With guidance from Pramod Mahajan, Munde turned the scenario for the party. A decision that changed the state politics soon came around 1987-88 when Mahajan met late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and convinced him to form an alliance of BJP and the Sena.
The state assembly election of 1990 turned out as one of the most crucial in state politics because Shiv Sena and BJP became the principal opposition force by replacing Janata Dal, Peasants and Workers Party (PWD) and left parties, who until then were the main opponents. By the time Munde had established firm grip on local politics of Beed district that was controlled by Congress and left parties. Along with his personal wins he helped other BJP men to clinch assembly wins from the adjoining constituencies. He was in charge of Marathwada, a region with eight districts.
It was Munde's whirlwind tour of Maharashtra to garner support against the then CM Sharad Pawar that paid off and saw BJP coming to power in alliance with Shiv Sena. His elevation to the deputy CMs post was just a formality. He held departments of home and energy during which controversial power project by Enron was approved though he campaigned against it with allegations of huge corruption.
After the Sena-BJP lost to Congress and NCP in 1999, Munde was the party group leader in state assembly. He was asked to shift to Delhi when the central leadership of BJP decided to appoint him as the vice president of the party. In 2009 he won his first Lok Sabha election by defeating the NCP candidate. By the time he was slowly losing grip over the politics from Beed as well as Marathwada because NCP made strong inroads in district politics and BJP could win just two assembly seats from the Marathwada region.
With untimely and unexpected exit, his ambition to become Chief Minister, nursed since 1999, of the state remained has remained unfulfilled.