Will the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lose Gopinath Munde, one of its seniormost leaders in Maharashtra, to the Congress?
Political circles are abuzz with speculation that Munde, the deputy leader in Lok Sabha, might move to the Congress.
Munde, who has spent close to 4 decades in the BJP, is believed to be eyeing the position left vacant in the state Congress after Union science and technology minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s death.
Deshmukh's demise last week has left a void in the state Congress, especially in the Marathwada region, which was the former chief minister's stronghold.
Munde, who also hails from Marathwada, has been feeling sidelined within the BJP since his adversary Nitin Gadkari has been elevated to the post of party president.
Sources told Hindustan Times that Munde’s camp has already sent feelers to the Congress top brass over his willingness to join the party and lead them in the Marathwada region.
“There have been hints from Munde's camp to the Congress top brass. But, there are strings attached to the offer such as a cabinet portfolio and ministerial berths in the state government. Given various claimants in Congress, the move will not be easy even though he is a senior leader,” said a senior Congress leader, who did not wish to be named.
Sources close to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan also confirmed that informal negotiations between the two sides had begun.
On being questioned about the developments, Munde told HT: "This is the first time, I am hearing of this development.'' He refused to elaborate further.