New Delhi: A doughty fighter, Union Minister Gopinath Munde`s heart was always in Maharashtra and was seeing himself as the next Chief Minister after the Assembly polls due later this year.
While 64-year-old Munde did not say so in as many words, he fancied himself as a top claimant to the coveted position in the premier state, notwithstanding ally Shiv Sena`s open claim over the Chief Ministership.
A Deputy Chief Minister in the Sena-BJP Government from 1995-99, the OBC face of BJP had been a stalwart in the state and was from the beginning known as a detractor of Sharad Pawar.
This was notwithstanding the fact that his brother-in-law, the late senior BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, was known to be close to the Maratha strongman.
Munde had chosen the state as his field of activity with Mahajan looking after the national affairs. The tragic demise of Mahajan in May 2006 forced Munde to come to national politics and he was the Deputy leader of the party in the last Lok Sabha.
The success of the BJP-Shiv Sena combine in the just- concluded Lok Sabha polls was due to the social engineering brought about by Munde by bringing together various social groups.
Munde brought into the combine Ramdas Athavale`s RPI, Mahadeo Jankar`s Rashtriya Samaj Party and Raju Shetty`s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana to stunning electoral effect.