Political career beckoned Gopinath Munde when he was in college in Pune, and the Beed MP later proved instrumental in growth of the BJP in the city, recall party leaders. The Union Rural Development Minister is credited with giving the party a foothold to expand in western Maharashtra through his political astuteness. His passing away has dealt a blow to the party that had decided to make him the face of the BJP in the Maharashtra assembly elections.
“It was the skill of the BJP leader that enabled the party to get a foothold in the Congress-NCP stronghold in western Maharashtra. He rose to a stature that enabled him to take on big leaders like NCP chief Sharad Pawar,” said a BJP leader.
Munde’s political strategy helped the BJP grow in the state, he said adding he drew popular Dhangar community leader Prakash Shendge from NCP to BJP in 2004. “It was also due to his effort that another Dhangar community leader Mahadeo Jankar joined the saffron alliance ahead of Lok Sabha polls. Munde played a major role in forming the mega alliance that won 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats,” the leader added.
“It was decided Mundeji would be the face of the party in the assembly elections. His demise is a huge loss to BJP as well as the state,” said BJP leader Eknath Khadse.
He added the “mass leader” image of Munde was because of his quality to instantly connect with people. The party went from strength to strength because of his huge mass base and he was responsible for spearheading many campaigns in the state, Khadse said. Vinod Tawde, Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, said, “His guidance and vision will be missed as we were depending on him as the party’s face in the state elections.” Pune MP Anil Shirole, who considered Munde as friend, philosopher and guide, said, “Once a friend always a friend and he entrusted me with responsibility with closed eyes.”