After keeping the BJP leadership on tenterhooks for nearly a fortnight, disgruntled BJP leader Gopinath Munde renounced plans of rebellion, at least for the moment, and said that he would stick with the BJP.
However, the question doing the rounds in party circles is: Will the truce last, or is Munde buying time for a hard-bargain with Congress?
“I am with the BJP and I will be with the BJP. Reports of me planning to leave the party are false,” Munde said after discussions with senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj at her residence.
Munde’s decision to stick with the BJP, after exploring various options, comes with the rider that the party address his concerns —which includes giving him a larger say in the functioning of the party in Maharashtra. Munde said he was discussing his problems with party leaders and was hopeful to find a solution. The top brass of the BJP plans to meet on June 27 or 28 to resolve Munde’s issues.
“Munde has realised that it would be difficult for him to play a role at the national level as long as Nitin Gadkari is party president. He wants to return to state politics and take control of the party unit here,” said a senior party leader who did not want to be named. “However, going by the trend in the party in past couple of years, it is unlikely that he will get a free hand,” the leader added.
Around five years ago,the party top brass began to promote Nitin Gadkari as an alternate power centre to the Munde-Mahajan duo. With Mahajan’s sudden demise, Gadkari’s path became easier. In the meantime, Gadkari encouraged the rise of younger leaders such as Eknath Khadse, Sudhir Mungunttiwar and Vinod Tawde as the party wanted to widen its base.
The efforts helped the BJP to come out of alliancepartner Shiv Sena’s shadow and become main opposition party. Now, all these efforts could go waste if Munde is given free hand, feel party insiders.
There are also indications that anti-Gadkari groups within the BJP are planning to use Munde’s rebellion against the party leadership. On the other hand, Munde seems to have realised the uneasiness of his so- called supporters over quitting the cadre-based party. There are only five or six legislators, including his daughter Pankaja Munde, Prakash Shendge, Sambhaji Pawar, Madhuri Misal and Pasha Patel who would actually risk leaving the BJP for his sake.
Though party members said that they were very happy with Munde’s decision, many are now worried about how they would function under Munde.“If the party rewards him now, it will send wrong signals. How do you expect the cadre to respect him and work under him now after what he has done for the past few days?” a senior party functionary said.
Despite the anxiety, state leaders are painting a rosy picture of the party’s future in the state. “We were confident that he will stay with the BJP. We will now work with added vigour under his leadership,” Senior BJP leader and leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse said.