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Despite rebuff, Congress doors open for Munde

The Congress has said that it will keep its doors open for BJP leader Gopinath Munde, despite him deciding to stay with his party.

mumbai Updated: Jun 23, 2011 01:45 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

The Congress has said that it will keep its doors open for BJP leader Gopinath Munde, despite him deciding to stay with his party.

Munde had met several senior Congress leaders over the last few days and speculationof him joining the Congress was rife. However, on Wednesday he announced that he had no plans of leaving the BJP. Munde supposedly changed his mind after being coaxed by party senior leader Sushma Swaraj.

Despite the developments, the Congress is prepared to wait for yet another Munde-BJP conflict and feels that the feud between Munde and BJP national president Nitin Gadkari will continue to simmer. “Munde had expected the top leadership to resolve his grievances. Also, he hasn’t called a permanent truce with Gadkari because he indicated on Wednesday that Gadkari was trying to tarnish his image by planting all kinds of news (in the media),” said a senior Congress minister requesting anonymity.

Before offering Munde a cabinet berth in the Centre and two ministerial berths for his supporters in Maharashtra (which the leader had reportedly asked for), the Congress had laid a condition before the BJP senior: “We wanted him to announce his disassociation with the BJP before our leaders made the offer official,” said the minister.

Interestingly, not all within the Congress were rooting for Munde to join and Munde’s truce with the BJP has brought cheer to some sections of the party.

The loyalists, especially the Muslims, were opposed to Munde’s entry into the party, saying that he would be the first out-and-out ‘Sangh ideologue’ to join the secular party.

“Many others associated with saffron parties, like the Shiv Sena, for instance, Narayan Rane and Sanjay Nirupam, joined the party and were given top jobs.But they were not such hardcore fundamentalists,” said a loyalist leader.

Reportedly, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Munde’s political rival in Maharashtra, grew uncomfortable when he saw Munde’s readiness to join the Congress. Ironically, Deshmukh does not shy away from telling the world that Munde is his close friend, though they share contrasting political ideologies.

In Marathwada, the Congress and BJP are equally strong because of a sizeable population of both Hindus and Muslims.

Minority leaders were also apprehensive about Munde’s presence in the party, which they felt would impact minority votes not only in Marathwada but also in the rest of Maharashtra.

First Published: Jun 23, 2011 01:44 IST