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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

‘Don’t want to be Maharashtra CM, just want to be in position to make one’: Pankaja Munde

Maharashtra Assembly Election 2019: BJP’s Parli assembly candidate Pankaja Munde says her government has done better than the previous governments led by the Congress.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 15, 2019 09:06 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times, Parli
Maharashtra minister of rural development, women and child welfare Pankaja Munde is the BJP candidate from the Parli assembly constituency in the October 21 state assembly election.
Maharashtra minister of rural development, women and child welfare Pankaja Munde is the BJP candidate from the Parli assembly constituency in the October 21 state assembly election. (Satish Bate/HT Photo)
         

As she prepares to contest for a third term from the Parli Assembly constituency against her cousin, rural development minister and BJP’s Other Backward Classes (OBC) face Pankaja Munde says she is not in the race to be the chief minister of Maharashtra, but would like to be in a position to make others the CM.

Speaking at her residence in her hometown, Parli, in Beed district of central Maharashtra, she insists that even in 2014, her choice for the post was Devendra Fadnavis and “even he knows it very well”. A part of the BJP’s core team in the state, Munde says her government has done better than the previous governments led by the Congress.

Excerpts from an interview:

You are seeking your third term in the Assembly and second in the absence of your father Gopinath Munde. How do you look at it?

I never intended to enter politics. From the very first day in this field, I have experienced struggle. It was never a smooth journey since the day my candidature was announced in 2009. It was announced just a day before the deadline to file nomination. Then it was looked at as a stop-gap arrangement, as we thought Mundesaheb, who was then a Lok Sabha member, would come back to the state politics after the Assembly polls later that year. So I was prepared to resign if need arose. I worked with my father for only four-and-a-half years, but learnt so much in that period.

Your entry into politics led to the split within the Munde clan. The rift continues, with your cousin (Dhananjay) contesting against you from the NCP.

There are brothers and sisters contesting against each other in other constituencies too. After all, it is democracy and everybody has the right to contest. But I am above all this now. This is my third term as a legislator. I am not fighting the election on emotive issues, but on the issue of development.

I would not like to talk about Dhananjay It was between him and my father when he was alive. I had to be with my father. It was a father and a daughter fighting against the odds. Now, there is no point discussing these things. He is an NCP candidate for me and a strong opponent, who has always focused on what I am doing and tried to claim how it is wrong.

During the recent Dussehra rally in Beed, your followers projected you as the future chief minister. Your sister MP Pritam Munde, too, has said you have the potential to become the first woman CM of the state.

I am only a contender for the Assembly. I am not in the race for chief ministership. I never asked or aspired for it. When we were not in power, I had embarked on a Sangharsh Yatra (state tour) and reached out to people. Then itself I had vowed to contribute to make a chief minister of my party and it happened. Even today, I want to be in a position to make others the CM. I never said that I want to become the CM and even my party leaders know that. What was portrayed in the media was not what it meant. In 2014, too, my choice for the post was Devendraji (Devendra Fadnavis) and even he knows this.

Why are senior leaders in the BJP scared to express their aspirations for the top post openly?

It is not the BJP culture. We do not entertain leaders who are loud. We have always been a different party, a cadre-based party. This is why we generally don’t see that kind of attitude in my party.

Is there unrest among the top leaders of the party? Core committee members Vinod Tawde and Eknath Khadse did not even get Assembly tickets. Why?

Tawde did not get to contest, but he has clarified that for him the party is over his personal wish. Khadse’s daughter has been given candidature. So why talk about it now. 

There is discontent among loyal party workers that outsiders are being inducted and given candidature. You, too, brought some people from the NCP to your party.

When you have to grow, you have to think about larger perspective. We have inducted people from areas where our party has no presence. We are not taking people where we already have good presence on ground. Inducting people from other parties is an attempt to add to the strength. There may be discontent at some places, but I don’t think there is any major problem as the BJP is a disciplined party.

Like your father, you too are the OBC face of the BJP. But the OBC community is unhappy with the reservation given to Marathas. What do you have to say?

In larger perspective, the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) included Kunbi Marathas too, who were deprived. The OBCs should not be worried about the reservation given to Marathas, as it has not affected them. It is wrong to say that the reservation to the Marathas will shrink the opportunities of OBCs in political arena in the future, as they already are in a stronger position in politics.