Happy supporting her so far, state BJP leaders have suddenly started perceiving late Gopinath Munde’s daughter, Pankaja, as a threat. This volte-face apparently stems from her announcement last week of embarking on a ‘Sangharsh Yatra’, which will see her touring the whole of Maharashtra.

State BJP leaders feel that if Pankaja’s yatra is successful, her stature will rival that of state party president Devendra Fadnavis and other such senior leaders. File pic
State BJP leaders feel that if Pankaja’s yatra is successful, her stature will rival that of state party president Devendra Fadnavis and other such senior leaders. File pic

The Sangharsh Yatra is synonymous with Gopinath Munde who, before the BJP-Shiv Sena formed the government in 1995, embarked on a similar tour, which catapulted him ahead of several top state leaders and resulted in him being picked as the deputy chief minister.

Many top-level state leaders from the current crop feel Pankaja, who has dropped her marital surname Palwe and uses only Munde now, is trying to repeat her late father’s masterstroke. They have, thus, not given their assent to the yatra so far.

People close to Pankaja said that the yatra will begin from Vidarbha and cover all the important places in the state before coming to a close in Pune. Leaders claim that if the tour is successful, it would raise Pankaja’s stature to a level equal to state president Devendra Fadnavis, leader of opposition in the legislative council Vinod Tawde and others.

A state leader said, “She already has a sympathy wave in her favour; if permission for the yatra is given, she will rise in the popularity stakes, too. This isn’t going down well with top-level state leaders, who are CM and deputy CM aspirants, as Pankaja will also be in the fray if our party forms the government.”

Political heir
What is going in Pankaja’s favour is that immediately after her father’s demise, she was unofficially declared Munde’s political heir. “An example was set when she, a woman, performed her father’s last rites. That sent out the message loud and clear that she would be taking the Munde legacy forward.

And then, exactly a month after her father passed away, she addressed party leaders and gave an emotional speech during the state executive meeting. The party high command bypassed seniors and promoted her to the core committee, and at a function, while top-level leaders were sitting off the stage, she was given a front row seat on the dais,” the leader added.

The core committee comprises the state president, the immediate past president, leader of oppositions in the assembly and council, and Pankaja Munde. Post Munde’s death, it was said that Fadnavis was the one who was advising her, but things seem to have changed now.

With Pankaja categorically denying that she would contest the bypoll for the Beed Lok Sabha constituency, which her father represented, she has given out a clear signal that she will be playing an active role in state politics. “If she goes to Delhi, she will be a mere MP, but if she stays back in the state, her future is bright,” added the leader.

Nobody in the BJP is ready to talk about this issue on the record right now, because none of them want to be seen as being part of the wrong camp. BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhyay, who was Gopinath Munde’s close aide, also refused to comment. mid-day tried calling Pankaja, but she remained unavailable.

Meanwhile, the two names that are doing the rounds for the Beed Lok Sabha bypoll are Pradnya Munde (Gopinath Munde’s wife) and Dr T P Lahane, dean of J J Hospital, who belongs to the same community as Munde and hails from Beed.