At an all-party meeting convened in Mumbai to pay tribute to the senior BJP leader and Union minister who died in a road accident in New Delhi earlier this month, Pawar said: “As a tribute to Munde, I have decided not to field NCP candidate in the byelection in Beed, if BJP decides to field any of his family members.”
Munde represented Beed Lok Sabha constituency in the backward Marathwada region. The BJP core committee has conveyed to the central leadership its decision to field Munde’s eldest daughter Pankaja Munde-Palve in the bypoll.
Pawar’s decision is on expected lines and is being seen as a step to win over the people in Beed region ahead of the Assembly elections. In Beed, Pawar is considered a bitter political rival of Gopinath Munde.
In the April 2014 Lok Sabha elections, NCP had left no stone unturned to make the fight tough for Munde.
BJP political managers feel Pawar has taken the decision in response to the strong sentiments among the people following Munde’s untimely death and that it aims to set an example to negate the anger in the public against NCP.
Politically, Marathwada with 48 Assembly seats out of the total 288 seats in Maharashtra is an important belt for the NCP. In Beed alone, out of the six Assembly seats, NCP led in five in the 2009 Assembly elections. Munde belonged to the Vanjari community that has a sizeable number of voters in Beed and adjoining constituencies in parts of Marathwada and Western Maharashtra.
In Beed, BJP supporters also hold NCP responsible for encouraging Munde’s nephew Dhananjay to revolt against him in 2009. Dhananjay is now an NCP MLC.
Sources in the NCP expressed hope that the party’s decision to not field any candidate against Pankaja would earn goodwill for Pawar and NCP.
In his speech, Pawar said: “Though we had serious differences and we often used all possible methods to contest each other, Munde’s contribution and concern for oppressed sections of society cannot be undermined. Munde was one of the tallest leaders of Maharashtra.”
Earlier, Maharashtra BJP president Devendra Fadnavis read out a written tribute offered by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat for Munde. The RSS chief described Munde as an able mass leader who made immense contribution to the party and raised issues of public concerns.
BJP president and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said: “On issues related to farmers and backward sections, Munde always made a joint cause cutting across party lines, which was so evident in Parliament.”
Singh added: “Pankaja Munde is a brave daughter of a brave father. The real tribute to Munde will be to carry forward his fight for the rights of backward sections, poor and farmers.