Updated: July 13, 2021 8:00:06 pm
BJP national secretary Pankaja Munde Tuesday dismissed reports that she was using any “pressure tactics” and hailed the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister and party president as her “leaders”.
With over 100 office-bearers in Beed and Ahmednagar districts resigning after two-time MP Pritam Munde Khade missed out on a Union berth, her sister and former state MLA Pankaja urged supporters “not to play into the hands of opponents”.
Back from a recent visit to the national capital, she said, “I am a national BJP secretary. My leaders are PM Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J P Nadda. Why should I fear? The PM has never insulted me. I do my politics with self-respect.”
In a veiled attack on the leadership of Devendra Fadnavis, the leader of opposition in state Assembly, she evoked the Mahabharata to call her “inhouse rivals” the Kauravas and her supporters the Pandavas. “Pandavas were just five, fighting 100 Kauravas. But they won because of patience… At this point, we have to avoid a ‘dharma yuddha’,” Pankaja said.
She was addressing her supporters from Beed, Ahmednagar and Jalna districts who had gathered outside her Worli office in Mumbai since Tuesday morning. Beed district president Rajendra Mhaske, sources said, had arrived with the resignation letters that he handed over to Pankaja.
Urging her supporters to withdraw their resignations, return to their respective districts and start working, Pankaja said, “We should not play into the hands of opponents… (After all) why should we leave the house which we painstakingly built with so much hard work. But yes, if a situation arises, where one feels it is pointless, we will then think. Will see when the roof collapses.”
Around 105 members representing various local bodies in district Beed and Ahmednagar have so far resigned to protest the non-inclusion of Pritam Munde Khade (MP) into the newly expanded Union Cabinet.
Nagnath Kharade, a Munde supporter from Pathardi, who was in Mumbai on Tuesday, claimed there was a growing sense that the Munde sisters are being “sidelined” in the organisation. “Earlier, the party denied state legislative council seat to Pankaja. Now, they denied cabinet post to Pritam Munde,” he said.
Claiming that her journey has been “difficult”, Pankaja her supporters, “I am not finished. It’s a fact that there have been efforts to finish me. But look, I am here. I am not afraid of anybody… “I am not finished. I am not afraid. I am not insecure. I inherit the political legacy of the late Gopinath Munde, whose politics was not founded on power and posts. He empowered the vanchit (the downtrodden and oppressed sections). I don’t do politics only for becoming an MLA, MP or minister. It is not the Munde culture. Nor do I engage in pressure politics.”
Pankaja had served as Rural Development Minister during the BJP-led government from 2014 to 2019. She lost the 2019 Assembly polls from the Parli seat to her estranged cousin and NCP leader Dhananjay Munde. After her loss, she had claimed there was a deliberate ploy by a section of the state BJP to orchestrate her defeat.
On Tuesday, Pankaja also tried to whip emotion by recalling the days following the death of her father. “I embarked on a sangharsha yatra (ahead of the 2014 state assembly polls) with only one mission: to get a BJP CM in the state… I was not doing it for myself. Yet, I worked tirelessly for the organisation. Do you think I would ever seek a cabinet post for myself or my sister? I draw my strength from my lakhs of supporters. I don’t need any ornamental posts to retain power or position.”
Referring to the elevation of Rajya Sabha MP Bhagwat Karad to the Modi Cabinet, Pankaja said, “We don’t disrespect people older than us. Why should I be unhappy if someone from my community (vanjara) becomes a minister.”
The induction of Karad, who also represents the vanjara community (OBC) and hails from Aurangabad in the Marathwada region, into the Union Cabinet has been perceived by many as a move to check the Munde sisters in the region.
Pankaja’s emotional address evoked mixed reactions among the state BJP ranks. While BJP MLA Ashish Shelar said they knew Pankaja Munde would address her followers and make them take back resignations, the leader of opposition leader in the state council, Pravin Darekar, said, “In politics, supporters often react. When Pritam Munde failed to get a Cabinet berth they were upset. But Pankaja Munde held talks and diffused the unrest.”
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