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In an extremely trying hour of grief, late Gopinath Munde’s heir apparent, his legislator daughter Pankaja, retained her poise and political maturity.
During her father’s funeral at Parli in Beed district on Wednesday, Pankaja apologised to senior politicians who were troubled by unruly mourners resorting to violence.
The Parli MLA appealed to mourners not to mar their beloved leader’s last rites by throwing stones and raising unwarranted slogans.
She took charge even as she displayed her strong resolve in departing from social custom to light the funeral pyre.
Traditionally, a male member, preferably a son or brother, performs the last rites and the custom is predominant in backward areas such as Marathwada.
A close associate of late Munde credited Pankaja’s strong resolve to her father. “Munde saheb would say his three daughters were his sons. Pankaja did what her father wanted her to do,” he said.
Pankaja is married to Amit Palwe, a Pune-based professional, who supports her in her new role as a political heiress to her father.
According to sources, Amit may join politics if Munde’s wife Pradnya does not agree to contest polls.
Pankaja has put in the hard yards and many in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recall how she successfully represented Parli assembly segment after Munde moved to the Lok Sabha from Beed.
She single-handedly managed her father’s Lok Sabha campaign this year.
Pankaja, chief of the BJP’s state youth wing, remained strong in the public eye after news of the Munde’s death came in. She consoled her family and friends, kept her emotions in check and rushed to Delhi.
Late Pramod Mahajan’s family, especially his MP daughter Poonam, Pankaja’s cousin, gave her much-required emotional support whenever she broke down.
Ramaesh Sangle, a resident of Parli, told HT that Pankaja, in the true sense, was a mass leader. “The people at large accept her as their leader. She is as fiery as her father and will win the October assembly polls with a handsome margin.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Pankaja said she did not like the manner in which the mourners had conducted themselves in the moment of sadness. “I don’t believe the people who threw stones and created a ruckus were my father’s followers. They betrayed us and I want the (state) government to find out who these troublemakers were.”