BJP leader Gopinath Munde, sidelined by the party after his rebellion against BJP president Nitin Gadkari, is back in action and is set to lead the party in the forthcoming 2014 elections.
On Wednesday, the BJP indicated that Munde will lead its campaign against the ruling Congress-NCP combine in Maharashtra. State BJP president Sudhir Mungantiwar said that the decision was taken at the party conclave at Surajkhand. Gadkari is said to have conveyed his decision to back Munde for this role.
Munde will launch a state-wide agitation against the irrigation scam, hoping to repeat his 1995 act where his campaign helped dislodge the Congress government. “I will not rest till this government is ousted,” said Munde. The BJP leader said his party will take to streets to expose the irrigation scam. “We will not be satisfied with putting the guilty behind bars. We want the authorities to recover the money they have looted from the state,” he said. Munde, however, brushed aside suggestions that he was a chief ministerial candidate, saying the matter would be decided at an appropriate time. As part of his campaign, Munde will lead demonstrations in Aurangabad, Akola, Khandesh, Konkan and Sangli.
Political analysts say Munde’s return to action was inevitable. “The BJP leadership has taken a pragmatic decision to close ranks as it sees a bright chance to return to power. For that, Munde is the best bet,” said Venkatesh Kumar, political scientist, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). “Also, with Vilasrao Deshmukh no more, and Ashok Chavan battling corruption charges, Munde, who hails from Marathwada, can reap rich electoral dividends for his party,” he added.
“Munde is the only mass leader the BJP has in the state,” said political analyst Prakash Bal. “It seems that the BJP leadership, especially Gadkari, has finally realised this,” he added.
In 1995, Munde ran an important campaign against Sharad Pawar, who then led the Congress government in the state. He became the deputy chief minister soon after, but his political decline began with the death of brother-in-law Pramod Mahajan.
Gopinath Munde’s political career
1975: Is imprisoned during the Emergency
1986: Is elected president of the state BJP, is the youngest leader of any political party
1992-1995: Serves as the leader of Opposition in the state Assembly
1995-1999: Serves as deputy chief minister and home minister of the state
2009: Elected to Lok Sabha, currently leads the party there.
Munde’s tryst with party and power
Gopinath Munde and Pramod Mahajan ruled the state BJP virtually unchallenged, and marginalised old-timers, many of who quit the party. However, this changed when Mahajan was killed in 2006. His brother-in-law Munde was left to fend for himself. Many of his loyalists were systematically cut to size. However, the big blow to Munde came in 2009 with the appointment of his rival Nitin Gadkari as the BJP national president. The Gadkari camp started purging Munde loyalists. When Uma Bharati was re-inducted into the party, Munde saw it as a move to cut his OBC base. Last year, angered by the snub, Munde veered towards the Congress. However, it is alleged that he could not clinch a good deal for himself, and was forced to abandon plans to jump ship.