Trap laid for me as I became a minister: Pankaja Munde
Munde, seen as the BJP’s Other Backward Class (OBC) face, spoke to HT after the rally, on the eve of completing three years in the Devendra Fadnavis-led governmentmumbai Updated: Oct 08, 2017 17:22 IST
A week after she held a massive show-of-strength Dussehra rally in Beed district of Marathwada, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minister Pankaja Munde said that ever since she joined the state cabinet in 2015, attempts have been made to trap her and create hurdles in her path.
Speaking exclusively to Hindustan Times, Munde said, “When I became a minister, there was a trap laid in my way. There were allegations of corruption, which I contested up to the Supreme Court and proved my detractors wrong. In the past three years, people have tried to provoke me; put words in my mouth... a certain image of me was created... I don’t blame anyone. I realise this is part and parcel of the game. But, I had to cross a track of hurdles to get where I am today,” said Munde.
While she did not blame internal politics within the BJP for these obstacles or name her opponents, Munde said the rally — where thousands of people gathered solely at her call — had proven her mettle as a mass leader in the state.
Munde, seen as the BJP’s Other Backward Class (OBC) face, spoke to HT after the rally, on the eve of completing three years in the Devendra Fadnavis-led government.
She said the success of her rally, third since her father Gopinath Munde’s demise, was a test that she had laid for herself.
“I am satisfied. I took a risk of creating something new. It is rare that people will come when you call them in hordes without any agenda and from across the state,” said Munde. “While Vanjari community is a dominant group that comes for the rally, we also have Dhangars, Malis, and even Marathas, who had gathered for my Dusshera rally.”
On her home turf, Munde is engaged in a tussle with her cousin and NCP leader Dhananjay Munde, who is the Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council. There has been speculation that Dhananjay has sympathies of some senior BJP leaders in the state.
Since her father Gopinath Munde’s death, she has also faced opposition from the spiritual head of the Vanajari community, Namdeo Shashtri, a former associate of her father and the mahant of Bhagwangad, a pilgrimage site for her community. Vanjaris form one of the biggest blocks under the OBC and are politically influential in several parts of the state.
When asked about internal rivalry and politics in her party, the minister clarified that she faced no such trouble. “Every party has its issues. But, in today’s BJP, we don’t have such problems,” said Munde. “My colleagues and I get along very well. We interact with each other without any baggage, be it Sudhirbhau [finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar], Chandrakantdada [revenue minister Chandrakant Patil] or Devendra Fadnavisji. I have realised in my three-year tenure that often there will be smoke without fire and talk without any issues.”
The Dusshera rally, a 15-year-old tradition set up by her father to bring together his large constituency of Vanjari community even closer, used to be held at Bhagwangad, a shrine of saint Bhagwanbaba in Ahmednagar district. Since Munde’s death, Pankaja has carried forward this tradition despite facing stiff opposition from Shastri. This year, she held the rally in the neighbouring district of Beed, her home turf, in the village where the saint was born, breaking away from the tradition, after she was denied permission to hold the rally at Bhagwangad by the mahant and district administration.