Sulking Munde remains incommunicado
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Last Updated: Monday, June 20, 2011, 21:49
New Delhi: Sulking senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde kept the party guessing about his next move by remaining incommunicado with the central leadership on Monday even as the Maharashtra unit chief called a meeting of party MPs, MLAs, MLCs and office-bearers to discuss the issue.

Top BJP sources said Munde did not get in touch with any senior leader of the party after talks between him and party president Nitin Gadkari had broken down yesterday night.

This set the alarm bells ringing in BJP amid rumours that Munde was mulling over joining Congress.

A meeting of top leaders, attended by Gadkari, BJP in-charge of Maharashtra M Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Ananth Kumar and Ramlal was held at LK Advani's residence. Sources said the party decided to adopt a wait-and-watch stand on the situation and not take any strong measure like expelling Munde from the party.

Munde is said to be in contact with senior Congress leaders, including its Maharashtra in-charge Mohan Prakash.

The Deputy Leader of BJP in Lok Sabha claims to have the support of three party MPs and 15 MLAs from Maharashtra, according to sources.

Meanwhile, Gadkari's close associate and Maharashtra BJP unit chief Sudhir Mungantiwar has convened a meeting in Mumbai of party MPs, MLAs, MLCs and office-bearers tomorrow. This is being seen as a virtual challenge from Gadkari to Munde as it will be a show of strength for both the leaders.

Venkaiah Naidu, who is also in-charge of Maharashtra affairs, will be in Mumbai tomorrow to attend the meeting.

The trigger for the current trouble is the recent appointment of Pune BJP chief, which Munde feels was done behind his back. But there are also other appointments that have irked Munde.

Munde is said to have met Mohan Prakash twice in the last 24 hours, ostensibly to build pressure on BJP.

Prakash, however, has denied having met Munde who reportedly met Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan yesterday here.

These meetings have prompted Gadkari's close associates to spread the word that Munde is likely to quit the party and join Congress.

However, some see this as mere pressure tactics by Munde to make the BJP central leadership grant his demands for more control over the party in Maharashtra, including appointment of his associates in key positions.

Though Munde has so far maintained that the question of his leaving the party does not arise, there are not many takers within BJP for this now.

The feud between Munde and Gadkari goes back several years. Gadkari was a political light-weight when Munde and late Pramod Mahajan had held sway over BJP politics in Maharashtra. Gadkari's elevation as BJP president changed the equations drastically.

Since taking over as president in December 2009, Gadkari has tried to assert himself in Maharashtra by appointing his own people as office-bearers in BJP state unit, which has not gone down well with Munde.

Munde, an OBC leader who is perhaps the only one in the state to command some mass following, put up a resistance, leading to the present crisis. While some have questioned the manner in which Munde raised the banner of revolt, others feel some of his demands are genuine.


First Published: Monday, June 20, 2011, 21:49

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