Munde family battle: Pankaja, Dhananjay head for a close finish in 2019 Maharashtra Assembly polls
The fight for late BJP leader Gopinath Munde’s political legacy is being played out between his daughter Pankaja Munde and nephew Dhananjay Mundemumbai Updated: May 16, 2017 12:05 IST
The nephew versus daughter power tussle in late BJP leader Gopinath Munde’s home turf of Beed in Marathwada is now headed for a close finish in the upcoming assembly elections.
Rural development minister and daughter of Munde, Pankaja has been locked in a bitter tussle with her cousin, Dhananjay, NCP leader and leader of Opposition in the legislative Council since 2014.
Pankaja won the 2014 assembly elections against her cousin in family constituency of Parliament in Beed but Dhananjay has since then caught up by winning almost every local poll here.
The finale will now be decided in the coming Assembly polls in 2019, or earlier if the BJP opts for snap polls given that it’s relations with ally Shiv Sena are only likely to worsen.
On Monday, Dhananjay scored another victory after the NCP panel he backed won the elections to the Parli (Munde’s assembly constituency) Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC). APMC refers to market yards established by the government where farmers sell their produce by an auction to wholesalers and agents.
While this is a minor election, it is an indicator of which group holds greater sway among core constituents including traders and farmers. For the last three decades, the APMC in Parli was under the control of Munde and in turn the BJP.
This APMC defeat for Pankaja comes on the heels of the loss of Beed district council and municipal council in the recently held elections. Both the district council as well as municipal council polls were won by the NCP. She only managed to get an upper hand for her party in the Parli panchayat samiti polls. The Parli municipal council had been in the hands of the BJP for the last decade, while the Beed district council had gone to NCP in 2012 elections.
As a senior minister, she is responsible for steering the party in these polls and the electoral losses reduce Munde’s bargaining power within the party’s senior leadership.
In 2014 assembly elections, just after her father’s death, Pankaja had been pitted against her cousin, Dhananjay, from the family seat of Parli. She won the polls easily then and got inducted as a senior minister in Fadnavis’ cabinet. But, the next polls will pose a big challenge.
What makes the battle tough for the daughter is that Dhananjay had been mentored and worked under her father for nearly a decade until he rebelled and joined NCP.
“He is also on his home turf and is very good with electoral political management and organisation. NCP is also backing him in a big way,” admitted a senior BJP aide of Munde.
Dhananjay rebelled after Munde fielded his daughter from April assembly constituency in 2009 while he contested the Lok Sabha seat.
“After her father’s death she has tried to project herself as the OBC face of the state and her party. She also got a seat as a senior minister in the BJP as she has her constituency of OBC followers. Much of this work will get undone if she cannot retain her own constituency in the assembly polls. In this scenario, she will have to reign in her ambitions and build bridges with the CM,’’ admitted a senior BJP leader.
What makes the Munde situation even more dynamic is that Dhananjay has good relations with BJP’s senior brass, including CM Devendra Fadnavis.