Pankaja Munde, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state core committee member, is willing to bridge the gap between her party and former ally, the Shiv Sena, in case the two parties need to form a government together in the state.
Talking to media persons at her Worli office on Friday, Pankaja indicated that she, too, was in the race for the chief minister’s post if the BJP came to power, saying that she did not lack any quality that a CM candidate required.
The elder daughter of late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, she maintained that her party will come to power on its own, but added that she will approach the Sena if needed.
Pankaja is confident of a warm welcome to Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s Bandra residence Matoshree because of the relations between the two families.
After the split up with the BJP, Uddhav had said Pankaja was his younger sister and he respected her father’s commitment to the ‘grand alliance’. As a mark of respect to the late leader, he did not field Shiv Sena candidates against Pankaja in Parli Assembly constituency and her sister Pritam for the Lok Sabha by-polls in Beed.
A senior BJP leader said Pankaja may be the one to break the ice between the two parties. “The exit polls and our internal surveys show that we will get adequate number to form the government on our own. But you never know what is in store till the results are announced on Sunday,” the leader said.
Pankaja’s aspiration for the CM’s job, however, did not surprise the BJP leadership, as her supporters have been pitching for the post, especially after the party’s high command anointed her as Munde’s political heir.
The Mundes command support from sizable other backward class voters, who, the party said, will change the party’s fortune in central Maharashtra because of the sympathy after her father’s death.
Sources said Uddhav may also ask the BJP to make Pankaja the chief minister in case the BJP desperately needs his support.
However, from the BJP’s side, state unit chief Devendra Fadnavis is well ahead of others in the race for the top job?