For the last two decades, Gopinath Munde was one of the key politicians who mattered in Maharashtra politics and whose presence could make an impact.
His death comes as a major setback for the BJP just when it was getting ready to wrest power from the Congress-NCP combine after losing state assembly elections three times in a row.
The party has lost not just its OBC face — to keep the backward class voters — but also a mass leader. Munde was a good orator and could draw crowds. The BJP does not have a leader with all these qualities now. This could prove to be a handicap for the party in the crucial assembly polls scheduled for later this year.
The party will definitely miss him while picking candidates for assembly elections — Munde had good knowledge of local and caste equations across Maharashtra.
His death is also a blow to the Shiv Sena and its president Uddhav Thackeray as both BJP and the Sena sit to negotiate seat-sharing for assembly polls over the next few weeks.After Mahajan’s death, Munde used his skills to keep the BJP-Sena alliance intact. Now the BJP is likely to be dominated by Nitin Gadkari who is not a big fan of the Thackerays.
Munde’s demise could mean the divide between the Sena and BJP will widen in the coming days. It won’t be surprising if MNS starts getting close to the BJP. Munde’s death would also change the equations in his home turf of Central Maharashtra with the Congress and the NCP attempting to recover ground lost to the BJP in the region. “It is an improbable loss to the BJP and will surely have an adverse impact on the party. However, it is too early to say what would be the extent of the damage,”opined political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar.
The Maharashtra BJP will have to depend more on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This also means Modi may send his trusted lieutenant Amit Shah to take charge of the assembly elections.