Gopinath Munde, architect of the OBC base for BJP

Tragic: A state funeral will be accorded to Munde at his native Parli in Maharashtra today

Gopinath Munde, architect of the OBC base for BJP

From the obscure farms of distant Parli in Maharashtra to a Union Minister, Gopinath Munde conquered many a summit during his political journey of over four decades. The one wish that remained unfulfilled was to be the chief minister of Maharashtra.

The 64-year-old leader was the OBC face of the BJP in Maharashtra and the architect of the rainbow alliance the Shiv Sena-BJP forged with three smaller parties ahead of the Lok Sabha elections which dealt a body blow to the Congress-NCP combine. The NDA won 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Munde, along with his brother-in-law late Pramod Mahajan, are credited with building the BJP in the state from the scratch and leading it to power in 1995. While Munde nurtured Beed in the Marathwada region as his constituency to firm up his position in state politics, Mahajan focussed his energies at the national level.

As a leader of a backward community, Munde helped the party expand its base in rural areas and among deprived sections, especially in Marathwada. He was first elected to the district council and began a steady march forward which ultimately saw him inducted as the Union Minister for Rural Development.

He was the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra between 1995 and 1999. Mahajan’s tragic death in May 2006 pushed Munde to the margins in the BJP forcing him to explore options with Chhagan Bhujbal, who himself was feeling suffocated in the NCP. The duo talked about floating an outfit for the OBC, but the BJP succeeded in wooing him back by making him the party’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha in 2009.

Munde’s arch-detractor Nitin Gadkari’s elevation as the BJP President further made him feel unwanted. “If all OBC leaders join hands we will not have to beg before anyone,” he had famously declared at a rally in 2012, expressing the hope that other OBC leaders would stand by him in his hour of need.

Though in national politics since 2009, Munde’s heart was in Maharashtra and he always nursed the ambition of becoming the chief minister of his home state. The impediment in the way was the seat-sharing formula Mahajan had struck with Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in 1984. It was agreed that if the alliance comes to power in Maharashtra, Sena would get the chief minister’s post.

As the BJP swept the Lok Sabha elections, Munde loyalists had started demanding a review of the seat-sharing formula to fulfil the wishes of their leader.

Re-elected to the Lok Sabha last month and sworn in as a Cabinet minister, Munde was on his way to the airport on Tuesday to fly to his constituency, Beed to address a victory rally. Now, his body has been taken there for its last rites.

Born on December 12, 1949, Munde was a member of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for five terms. He is survived by his wife and three daughters – Pankaja, Pritam and Yashashri. Pankaja Palave represents the Parli Assembly seat in Beed district.

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