Gopinath Munde, the rebel Maharashtrian leader of the Bhartiya Janata Party has said he does not intend to leave the Bhartiya Janata Party. He has been in talks with Congress and NCP leaders, allegedly to explore the option of joining them, but seems to have found nothing worthwhile to take up in those parties.
“I am with Bhartiya Janata Party. I shall remain with it. The news that I am about to leave is wrong,” he said after meeting Sushma Swaraj.
Munde said he has many grievances and he will continue to hold talks with top BJP leaders. “I will not talk about them publicly. It is the job of the leaders to address them. I shall put them before the leaders,” he said.
He denied he has met Congress General Secretary Ahmed Patel. Asked who would be spreading the rumors that he has met Ahmed Patel, he said: “You know very well who does,” indicating, of course, that the Congress was behind the rumors.
Munde said he is suffering, an allusion to his feelings of being neglected in the state wing of the BJP under its current president Nitin Gadkari. Gadkari, a Maharashtrian and a staunch former activist of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is not particularly enamored of Munde.
Munde, the brother in law of former national BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, has seen better times in his career in the BJP. He was the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra and is the convener of BJP’s state unit.
The most popular mass leader of the BJP in the state, Gopinath Munde feels let down by the decision to promote a relatively unknown Swayamsevak like Gadkari to the presidency of the BJP at the national level.
Munde is a popular backward community leader and his exit would have led to some impact on BJP’s support among these castes. Munde is credited with coming up with the slogan ‘Madhav’, Mali, Dhangar, Vanjari (all OBC castes) — the foundation upon which the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance came to power in 1995. The alliance continues to draw a large part of its support from the OBC — the ‘middle castes’.
An dishonourable exit for Munde would have been disastrous for the OBC vote-base of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, coming so soon after another tall OBC leader, Chhagan Bhujbal left the Shiv Sena for the Congress.