Maha BJP meet inconclusive; Munde leaves for Delhi



New Delhi/Mumbai: Sulking BJP leader Gopinath Munde on Tuesday kept the party on tenterhooks about his next moves with no respite in the talk that he could head towards Congress.

Munde, who was in Mumbai today, left for Delhi this evening after a crucial meeting of party MPs, MLAs, MLCs and office-bearers from Maharashtra saw his supporters foiling a bid to project a united face of the state unit.

The Deputy Leader of BJP in Lok Sabha told reporters soon after the meeting that he was "still in BJP" and would take a decision about his future course after consulting colleagues.

The former Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, however, gave vent to his unhappiness by saying, "I am saddened by the happenings today. I did not get an invite for the meeting even till its fag end."

Evading questions about his next move, Munde said, "I will take a decision after the party leadership clears its stand."

No concrete gains were made today in resolving the differences between Munde and party president Nitin Gadkari, BJP Central leaders merely said that the talks have been positive.

The feeling at 9, Ashoka Road, the BJP headquarters is that Munde may not leave the party. His detractors, however, say that if he does finally do so, it would only be a stop-gap plan to buy time.

Central leaders indicated that the party may agree to Munde's demand that the next elections in the state are held under his charge and he has control over party affairs.

However, with Gadkari also hailing from Maharashtra, BJP is not likely to give him more overwhelming powers and some checks and balances will be put in place, sources said.

Asked about Munde's status, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters, "He has presented his views infront of the Central leaders of the party... The talks with him have been positive. Once the talks are completed, we will get back to you."

A senior Congress leader, who declined to be identified, felt that it was a "50-50" chance of the OBC leader joining the ruling party.

An interesting development is that Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has also left for Delhi apparently to give the Congress high command the assessment over the Munde issue.

Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who is known to be close to Munde whom the sulking leader had met last week, has also arrived in Delhi to be at hand for possible consultations.

Former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who also hails from Marathwada region like Munde, had a meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi today.

Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly Eknath Khadse told reporters that he was confident Munde would not leave the party. Asked about the botched effort to pass a resolution saying the party was united, Khadse said there was no need for such a resolution.

The 62-year-old leader is disgruntled apparently after Gadkari, once his junior in state unit, spurned the former's demands to make him the Opposition leader in the state Assembly and to make supporter Pandurang Phundkar the state BJP president in place of Sudhir Mungantiwar.

The crisis erupted recently over the appointment of a Gadkari loyalist Vikas Mathkari to the post of BJP Pune Chief in place of Yogesh Gogagawale, a Munde loyalist.

PTI