Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
Gopinath Munde, Union Rural Development Minister, who died due to heart attack after a road accident in Delhi, was one of the BJP`s top leaders in Maharashtra, and was considered to be the party`s chief ministerial candidate for the assembly elections to be held in the state by October this year.
Had the fate willed otherwise, Munde would have spearheaded the party`s campaign to wrest power from Congress-NCP combine in the upcoming Assembly polls in Maharashtra.
A former Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Munde was recently inducted as Union Minister for Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation in the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time.
Munde, who was the Deputy Leader of Opposition in 15th Lok Sabha, was elected from from the Beed Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra which is known to be a stronghold of Sharad Pawar-led NCP.
Munde was one of the BJP`s top backward caste leaders. In Maharashtra BJP politics, he was seen as leading the faction that opposed Nitin Gadkari`s elevation as party president in 2010. In fact, he had reportedly made up his mind to quit the BJP then and join the Congress, but was persuaded to stay on. Interestingly, Gadkari was one of the first to reach the hospital this morning.
He cut his teeth in politics during his stint in the BJP`s student wing, the ABVP. It was here that he came in contact with Pramod Mahajan – another rising star of the BJP - and later married his sister.
Munde rose to fame in 1994 when he launched a statewide yatra to expose the failings of the Sharad Pawar government in Maharashtra. The yatra drew a very good response and elevated him to the status of a front-ranking BJP leader. When the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance was voted to power in Maharashtra in 1995, he became deputy chief minister of the state.
Born on December 12, 1949 to Pandurang Munde and Limbabai Munde in a middle class Vanjari (caste) farmer`s family, Munde was brought into politics by the late BJP leader Vasantrao Bhagwat, who also groomed several other youngsters including Pramod Mahajan.
A general secretary of the party at the national level, he was Chairman of the Committee on Chemicals and Fertilisers in last Lok Sabha.
He is survived by his wife and three daughters and one of them - Pankaja Palave - represents the Parli assembly seat.
The most prominent leader of the party in Maharashtra for over two decades along with his late brother-in-law Pramod Mahajan, Munde was the architect of the social engineering formula by cobbling up the opposition `Mahayuti` alliance which got 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the recent Lok Sabha polls.
A five time MLA, Munde`s heart has always been in the state politics and harboured the ambition of becoming first BJP Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He was tipped to be the Chief Ministerial candidate of BJP in the upcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra. In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won 23 of the 26 seats it contested in alliance with the Shiv Sena, which cornered another 18 seats.
Emboldened by its handsome victory in the state, the BJP was reportedly mulling to demand a larger chunk of seats in the assembly polls. The party had in 2009 been allocated 119 of the 288 seats, while the Shiv Sena fought in 160 seats. The BJP had won 46, two more than its partner. BJP leaders feel that the Shiv Sena`s base is shrinking.
However, Munde`s untimely death has shaken the BJP and it now has a difficult task to find a leader of the same stature who could steer the party in the upcoming polls.
Munde often regretted that he hardly spent quality time with family in the past and wanted to make up for that has left for heavenly abode with his wish unfulfilled.
We at Zee Media pray that his soul rests in eternal peace.