Gopinath Munde was a great friend. We worked as colleagues in 1995 when I was the chief minister and he was the deputy chief minister.
His sudden demise has come as a huge setback for both BJP and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. He and late Pramod Mahajan were the pillars of the BJP in the state and contributed to its growth in the state.
Munde was a mass leader who had the pulse of the farmers and socially backward classes in the state.
The biggest quality I think Munde possessed was his willingness to step two steps back to ensure the stability of our 25-year-old alliance.
He was a very ambitious person and playing second fiddle to anyone was not in his DNA. However, he made several adjustments to ensure the saffron combine rules Maharashtra.
While working together in 1995, Munde and I had huge differences over several issues. In one such fight, the entire team of BJP ministers abstained from attending the cabinet meeting, which created panic.
We felt that maybe BJP was pulling out of the government. But Munde rose to the occasion, held a meeting of his ministers in the evening and met me saying there was no point stretching the issue. Such was the gregariousness of this great leader.
During my tenure as CM, when there was tension between us, I had visited his village in Ambejogai tehsil (of Beed district). When he came to know of my visit, he kept all the political differences aside and invited me to his home.
His interaction with the Shiv Sena increased especially after Mahajan's death. He became the bridge between the two parties. He shared a close relationship with Balasaheb (late Sena chief Bal Thackeray) and with Uddhav.
When the BJP chose him to lead the party's election campaign in Maharashtra, there was a wave of enthusiasm even within the Sena given his good rapport with Uddhav.
His death has left a huge void in Maharashtra politics.
(As told to Sayli Udas Mankikar by Manohar Joshi, Sena leader and former Maharashtra chief minister)