The saffron party lacks a leader of Gopinath Munde’s stature who can step into his shoes.
The untimely death of Union Minister Gopinath Munde is likely to affect the BJP’s poll preparation activities in Maharashtra. Munde who was known as a mass leader was hugely responsible for the party’s impressive performance in the recently concluded Lok Sabha election. The saffron party was banking heavily on Munde to oust the Congress party led Democratic Front government from Maharashtra. After Munde’s death questions are being raised about who will replace him to lead the election campaign in Maharashtra. Munde was touted as the party’s CM candidate if it comes to power in the state.
Even though the names of leaders like Devendra Fadnavis, the state BJP President, leader of opposition in Vidhan Sabha, Vinod Tawde, Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar is being discussed none of the possess the experience and charisma of Gopinath Munde who was known as a grassroots leader known for working for the welfare of farmers and poor people. On the other hand, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is not keen to return to the state. The road ahead looks tough for BJP as it will have no other option but to accept Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray as the alliance’s chief ministerial candidate. Munde had already started preparing for the assembly elections but fate had some other plans for him. Thus one can say that BJP has lost its chief ministerial candidate in Maharashtra.
The saffron party will take a long time to recover from the loss of its popular leader Gopinath Munde. State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis is extremely articulate and enjoys the full backing of the RSS, but he is not known to have a mass base outside Vidarbha – region where he hails from. Also, he belongs to the Brahmin community, which has a relatively small presence in the state. The other option is Devendra Phadnavis, the state BJP president. He’s among the most well-spoken and aggressive BJP leaders in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, but he’s Brahmin, as well, and wholly lacks a pan-Maharashtra presence. The other two leaders from the city include leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Parishad Vinod Tawde and Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar, also an upper house member. Both are very promising leaders, among the next generation of BJP leaders to watch out for, but again, lack a pan Maharashtra presence. The BJP’s North Maharashtra strongman Eknath Khadse could be another option but his following too is limited to that region. On the other hand, Prakash Javadekar, Minister of State for Environment and Climate Change lacks the ability to attract crowds.
Munde’s death will also mean that BJP will have to soften its stand for more seats to contest the assembly election. Thus the seat sharing agreement between both the parties is likely to be reworked.
The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance came to power in Maharashtra in 1995 on the back of a storm generated by Munde across the state by campaigning against Sharad Pawar for his alleged links with some controversial people. Munde believed there were only two stalwarts in the state – his friend Bal Thackeray and opponent Sharad Pawar. Therefore, he attacked Pawar and ensured a victory for the saffron alliance. The NCP has been making deep inroads in Marathwada, the region Munde lorded over. In coming years, as the NCP attempts to drive in roots in more constituencies in Marathwada, the BJP will sorely miss Munde’s experience and maturity.