Seeing that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in no mood to meet senior leader Gopinath Munde’s demands, the Congress on Tuesday swung into action to strike a deal with the BJP’s disgruntled deputy leader in the Lok Sabha.
The Congress high command summoned Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre to New Delhi to discuss the matter of Munde’s inclusion in the party, sources said.
Munde too left for Delhi on Tuesday evening, ostensibly to meet BJP leaders LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj. According to a Congress leader who did not wish to be named, though, “if things went as expected,” Munde was to meet the Congress president late Tuesday night.
Munde has been in talks with senior Congress leaders for almost a week. During his talks with Mohan Prakash, the Congress leader in-charge of Maharashtra, and Sonia Gan-dhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel on Sunday and Monday, Munde is reported to have said that he was willing to join the Congress if he was given a Union Cabinet berth and at least two of his supporters were included in the Maharashtra Cabinet.
The Congress does not have a strong OBC leader in Maharashtra, so getting Munde would help strengthen its position on the ground. It could also deal a major blow to the BJP which has been speaking aggressively against the UPA regime at the Centre in the wake of various scams.
Munde’s departure would also mean a setback for BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, who could invite criticism for his failure to prevent a split in the party in his home state. The anti-Gadkari factions within the BJP could also get aggressive against him.
Though BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said Munde would not join the Congress, Munde himself did not rule out the possibility. Before leaving for New Delhi, he told reporters, “My party must address my grievances, else I have all options open.”
State Congress chief Manikrao Thakre asked the media to wait till Wednesday to know of developments.
A source close to Gadkari, with whom Munde has had a running feud, said the BJP president would not meet Munde again.
Munde first spoke out against the party leadership on May 28 after the BJP appointed Vijay Matkari as Pune city chief instead of Munde’s candidate Yogesh Gogavale.