With PM by her side, Pankaja hopes to trump cousin DM

Pankaja Munde

Faced with a tough challenge from her cousin in the Assembly polls, senior BJP leader Pankaja Munde looks to turn the tide in her favour after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's massive rally here.

Modi began his speech in Marathi by paying rich tributes to Pankaja's father late Gopinath Munde, who was instrumental in the growth of the BJP in the state and has demigod status in the region.

In his 30-minute speech, Modi hit out at the Opposition Congress-NCP over their stand on the abrogation of Article 370 and even mockingly offered to ferry them to Jammu and Kashmir to see the situation there.

"Do you remember what kind of statements they (Congress leaders) made after Article 370 was abrogated? One leader said it's not India's internal matter. Shouldn't we punish (those who make) these kinds of statements? Another Congress leader said this was a decision that will destroy India. Has the country been ruined? Have we lost Kashmir? If you want to go to Kashmir, tell me, I will make arrangements," Modi said.

The prime minister's remarks on Kashmir received a muted response from the crowd. However, Modi's assertions on connecting Beed with a railway line to Parli and Ahmednagar was cheered by the crowd.

Pankaja, who is a senior minister in the state government, is in a tough contest with cousin Dhananjay Munde, the NCP candidate. Dhananjay, popular in the region as DM, is the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council and wields considerable influence in Parli town.

"There is a strong buzz about DM, that is the reason Modi is here," Narayan Mane, a 22-year-old factory worker, said.

Laxman Garad, a school teacher concurred with Mane but claimed that the equation would change following Modi's rally.

Taking a swipe at the Opposition, Modi said BJP workers were doing their best to serve the people, but it was Congress-NCP leaders who were leaving their supporters in a lurch by quitting the party.

"On the one hand, you have a cabal of tired and exhausted leaders and on the other hand, you have youthful leaders such as Devendra and Pankaja in the BJP," Modi said.

"Will tired and exhausted leaders be of any help to you. What is the need for such people," he said.

Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde recently stirred up a storm by saying that the Congress and NCP leaders were now tired and the two parties should now merge. 

Modi urged the voters to punish the Congress for it "misdoings", claiming that the country could see through their scams and their fake remarks now. 

"The country will punish them for their misdoings when the time comes, but Maharashtra has got the first opportunity to do it," Modi said.

Maharashtra goes to polls on October 21.

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