Politicians cutting across party lines will come together at Shanmukhanand Hall on Sunday to celebrate Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde's 61st birthday.
Munde will be felicitated by senior BJP leader LK Advani at the function, which will be attended by political bigwigs like Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, Union minister for heavy industries Vilasrao Deshmukh and state public works department minister Chhagan Bhujbal.
“We have organised the function to celebrate his birthday and four decades of his political career,” said city BJP president Raj Purohit.
However, Munde's bête noire and BJP party president Nitin Gadkari has decided to stay away from the function organised by the Gopinath Munde Gaurav Samiti.
Munde’s public felicitation is seen by many as an attempt by the Munde camp to show the senior party brass that their leader has options outside the BJP. It is also an attempt to ramp up Munde's image as a national-level OBC leader.
Munde has been increasingly finding it difficult to operate in the BJP, which is now headed by his rival Gadkari. He was a name to reckon with in the BJP’s state unit when his brother-in-law Pramod Mahajan was alive.
But, Mahajan's sudden demise has had an effect on Munde’s fortunes in the party, with detractors like Gadkari challenging the stranglehold the Munde-Mahajan clan had over the BJP’s state unit.
With the party and RSS tending to side with Gadkari, an unwilling Munde was even asked to take interest in national-level politics and made the BJP's national general secretary. Munde, whose heart lies in state politics had also resigned from the party for a short while, saying that he was being sidelined in the party.
The leader took back his resignation later and the party also decided to mollify Munde by making him the deputy leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
But, Gadkari’s ascension as BJP president has left Munde feeling uneasy.