Pankaja Munde refuses to back down, will hold Dussehra rally at Bhagwangad
Munde’s statement comes even as the district administration of Ahmednagar issued orders prohibiting assembly of more than 4 people within one acre or 40 gunthas in Bharjawdi village, which falls inside Bhagwangad, the resting place of Bhagwan baba, a saint revered by the Vanjari community, to which she belongsmumbai Updated: Oct 11, 2016 00:12 IST
In a clear signal that she would not back down when her leadership was under question, women and child development minister Pankaja Munde on Monday said she would attend and address the Dussehra rally at Bhagwangad shrine, near Ahmednagar on Tuesday.
Munde’s statement comes even as the district administration of Ahmednagar issued orders prohibiting assembly of more than 4 people within one acre or 40 gunthas in Bharjawdi village, which falls inside Bhagwangad, the resting place of Bhagwan baba, a saint revered by the Vanjari community, to which she belongs. The district collector issued these orders on a request to hold the gathering, an annual tradition within the ambit of the shrine to avoid a possible law and order situation. Later in the night, the district collector gave his approval for Munde’s rally to be held at the foothills of the shrine.
“I will be going to Bhagwangad on Tuesday as is tradition and I will address people. I am going there on people’s request. However, my speech will be as per the rules. I have no tussle with Shastriji (spiritual head of the shrine) and I respect him. I have asked the chief minister to probe the audio clip, it has been tampered with. I have never threatened anyone,” said Munde.
For the past two days, Munde has been caught in an ugly tussle with the current religious guru, Namdeo Shastri Sanap, of the shrine. Munde, political heir of her father and the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde --- unquestioned leader of the community-- has been keen to step into his footsteps. Shastri, who was close to Gopinath Munde and had called Pankaja the daughter of Bhagwangad last week, said the gathering should not be politicized. He had then said it was unfortunate that Munde was using her force to capture Bhagwangad. The leadership tussle over the community had turned vicious with the leak of an audio clip (unauthenticated) which among other things had a voice similar to Munde’s indirectly threaten the guru and talk about disbursing government funds among gram panchayats close to the shrine.
Munde’s supporters said the district administration’s orders would not be defied and the rally would be held just outside the ambit of the shrine. Even though Munde was with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Beed, her hometown on Monday, the CM avoided intervening in this controversy. He has also avoided backing her on the issue. BJP senior leaders have maintained a silence on the controversy. However, BJP ally and minister Mahadev Jankar has backed Munde and is expected to be present at the rally.
Political observers say the show of strength rally will be Pankaja’s attempt to silence her opponents including rival and cousin Dhananjay Munde, who has been suspected of fuelling the controversy, and rivals within the party. Currently, she is the only BJP leader, who enjoys such a mass community base, even though it has been inherited from her father. It’s this base that gives her clout in the party and a position to have chief ministerial ambitions.