BETWEEN her own campaign in Parli, where she is pitted against cousin Dhananjay Munde of the NCP for the second consecutive Assembly election, and requests from candidates across the state to address rallies in their constituencies, Maharashtra Minister Pankaja Munde (40) has her hands full.
In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to address a rally in Parli on October 19, where all BJP candidates in the Marathwada region will be present, and Pankaja is busy fine-tuning the plans for security, buses, helicopter, etc.
In the 2014 polls, Pankaja won comfortably with 96,904 votes to Dhananjay’s 71,009. While the Shiv Sena did not field a candidate against her, the Congress candidate finished with 14,946 votes.
This time, the BJP camp has decided to take ample precaution to counter Dhananjay’s popularity among a section of Parli’s voters — while the losing Congress candidate of 2014, T P Munde, was welcomed into the BJP earlier this month, the party has also successfully wooed Uttam Mane, the CPM candidate in the 2014 contest. Mane had polled 3,053 votes.
Mane belongs to Moha, a village in Parli constituency that has had a large Communist party presence for years, perhaps the only such village in Beed district. Moha was also home to former MP Gangadharappa Burande of the CPM, a leader of the CPM’s All India Kisan Sabha, who was among those who set up a nascent Communist movement in Marathwada.
On Monday, between campaign meetings and planning for the PM’s rally, Pankaja addressed BJP workers from Moha at her residence in Parli, and said they should feel strengthened with Mane’s supporters joining them. Moha, incidentally, registered a lead for the NCP candidate in the recent Lok Sabha polls.
“The NCP’s attitude is that they would be okay with 10 of their candidates in Western Maharashtra losing, but Pankaja must lose. Why such rage? I have been looking after this constituency like a mother,” she told them. At public meetings, she has said Dhananjay is in the fray only to defeat her.
Telling the workers that there is development in Parli because their legislator is a minister, she said, “Do you want to vote for a minister or for a candidate who’s going to lose?”
For Pankaja, who was earlier president of the BJP youth wing and is now seen by some as harbouring chief ministerial ambitions, as well as for her cousin and challenger Dhananjay, who faces higher stakes now as Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, it is again a fight to claim Gopinath Munde’s legacy.