“A day before he passed away, I received his graduation certificate that was issued by the University of Pune. However, before I could hand it over to him, he has left us,” said Anil Shirole, BJP leader and newly elected Member of Parliament from Pune. A poignant Shirole was speaking at a condolence meeting held at the BJP’s party office in the city yesterday to mourn the loss of BJP leader Gopinathrao Pandurang Munde.
Colossal loss: City BJP office bearers, including MP Anil Shirole, paid rich tributes to their leader and Union Minister Gopinath Munde at a condolence meet at the BJP city office yesterday. Pic/Mohan Patil
The Union Minister for Rural Development died in a road accident in Delhi yesterday. He was 64. Munde was on his way to the airport to reach his hometown Beed to attend a victory rally, when tragedy struck. He had recently contested the Lok Sabha elections from Beed and defeated his nearest rival from the NCP, securing 6,35,995 votes. He was sworn in as a Union minister on May 26.
Gopinath Munde’s graduation certificate from Pune university
A few days later after a row over Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s education qualification, Munde’s qualification came under the scanner after Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad had raised the matter, by tweeting, ‘He [Munde] graduated in 1976 from a college established in 1978’.
Munde had defended his qualification, saying that the degree was issued by Pune University and not by the college. To substantiate his leader’s claims, Shirole had approached the university. “As soon as I received the graduation certificate from Pune University, I called him [Munde] up on Monday and informed him I will be coming to Delhi to handover the certificate to him. However, before I could make it to the Capital my closest friend left us untimely,” said Shirole.
Born into a middle-class family in Beed on December 12, 1949, Munde’s association with the city dates to the days he spent as college student while pursuing his studies here. Speaking about his Pune connection, Shirole said that Munde spent almost four years in Pune when he was studying at the ILS law college.
“It seems that his parents were looking for a bride for him while he was studying for his graduation. However, one day, he suddenly showed me a photo of a girl whom he used to like. That girl was Pradnya, whom he later married,” said Shirole. Munde tied the knot with late Pramod Mahajan’s sister Pradnya, on 21 May 1978.
Paying rich tributes to Munde, BJP MLA Girish Bapat, a close confidant of another party stalwart Nitin Gadkari, reminisced about the time they spent together in Nasik jail during the emergency in 1975.
“We were both together in Jaiprakash Narayan’s movement against emergency and were sent to Nasik jail for 18 months. Mundesahib started lot of activities for all of us like debating, group discussion and started a library in the jail. He also started a shakha within the jail premises where we all used to spend our evenings,” said Bapat. Munde was also associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and his connection with the sangh flourished in Pune.
Remembering the old days, RSS volunteer Ravi Ghatpande said that he appointed Munde as secretary of the shakha at Sant Tukaram Paduka chowk in Deccan Gymkhana. “Munde hailed from Marathwada and his style of speaking was a bit different than that of Punekars. Many volunteers had even doubted my choice of appointment. However, Munde proved them wrong, and within 15 days he became popular among other RSS volunteers,” said Ghatpande.
“He was highly committed towards the sangh’s principals and used to visit the shakha every day without fail,” said another RSS volunteer, Nitin Sontakke, adding that Munde was the most down-to-earth politician he had ever seen.
Within a span of 10 years, Maharashtra has lost three of its political stalwarts. In 2006, senior BJP leader Pramod Mahajan was shot dead by his brother. In 2012, former state CM Vilasrao Deshmukh from the Congress party died due to multiple organ failure. The state received another shock after it lost its third senior leader, Gopinath Munde of the BJP, yesterday.