Gopinath Munde – 1949 – 2014
One of the best known faces of Maharashtra politics and former deputy chief minister, Gopinath Munde died early Tuesday morning following a road accident in Delhi. Munde, a senior politician from Maharashtra, was sworn in as the Union Minister for Panchayati Raj, Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation on May 26. He was also until recently in the reckoning for the position of Maharashtra Chief Minister. His sudden and untimely demise is a rude shock to the turbulence prevailing in Maharashtra politics.
Being an astute politician and a master strategist, he rose from the ranks leaving his imprints on every position he occupied in public life. Credited with the near-impossible task of neutralising the NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, Munde won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by a margin of 1.4 lakh votes from the Beed constituency after defeating NCP’s Suresh Dhas. Known for his organisational skills, his career in public life has been characterised by hard work and his ability to retain touch with the masses at the grassroots levels.
As a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from 1980 to 2009, he was no doubt the most prominent leader of the BJP in Maharashtra along with his brother-in-law Pramod Mahajan. Widely regarded as the architect of social engineering, Munde had been instrumental in stitching up the grand “Mahayuti” alliance of the Republican Party of India, Swabhimani Shetkari Paksh and Rashtriya Samaj Paksh along with the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in the state, which won 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the recently concluded General Elections.
Gopinath Munde, who was expected to lead the BJP in the upcoming Assembly polls in Maharashtra, was known as a consensus builder and was expected to meet state leaders and smoothen the rough creases with its long-term ally, the Shiv Sena. Since the death of the Sena supremo Bal Thackeray in 2012, Munde had emerged as the axis of the state’s political affairs.
His sudden death revives the turbulence in Maharashtra’s politics and the void he leaves with is irreparable. In the changed political scenario, the equations with the Sena will need to be redefined and the state’s BJP unit will no longer remain the same without his presence.