Tens of thousands of mourning supporters and distraught family members Wednesday bid a tearful farewell to Gopinath Munde, Maharashtra BJP’s tallest mass leader and architect of its impressive victory in Lok Sabha elections, who was killed in a car crash in Delhi yesterday.
Roars of “Gopinath Munde amar rahe” and “Munde Saheb parat ya (Munde Sir, come again)” went up as daughter Pankaja lit the funeral pyre standing amidst a sea of humanity at the departed leader’s home town in the backward Marathwada region.
Grief, however, gave way to anger as the milling crowd, that had gathered under the blazing sun, became restless to have a closer glimpse of their beloved leader.
The cremation ground soon turned into a battleground with Munde’s supporters hurling stones at a large police contingent who retaliated with a cane charge.
Pankaja, who till then was seen acknowledging the condolences while standing atop a platform with her father’s mortal remains, had to take charge of the proceedings.
Public address system in hand, she pleaded with the angry locals to remain calm and order was restored, only to to be broken again as the crowd that swelled by the minute began demanding a CBI inquiry into Munde’s death and went on the rampage after the cremation.
They torched a car and blocked the vehicles of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and some other ministers. TV footage showed Chavan seated in his car as protesters angrily thumped the bonnet with fists, forcing the police to cane-charge.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who was present at the funeral, supported the demand for a CBI probe.
“The sentiments of the (party) workers should be respected,” he said.
Munde, 64, Union Rural Development Minister, was killed in a road accident in Delhi while he was on way to Parli for a felicitation following his own and BJP’s resounding victory in Lok Sabha elections, which saw him re-elected for a second time from Beed.
However, in a cruel twist of fate, he could not reach there alive and only his mortal remains were brought to the Baidyanath Sugar Factory compound for performing the last rites, a few kilometres away from ‘Totla Maidan’, the venue of the felicitation that never happened.
The BJP veteran is survived by his wife Pradnya and three daughters including Pankaja, BJP MLA from Parli and heir to his political legacy.
Pankaja lighting her father’s funeral pyre marked a departure from the Hindu tradition of a male member of the family doing duty and signalled her taking over the leader’s political mantle.