Munde-Gadkari tussle, stalemate remains

Senior OBC BJP leader Gopinath Munde, miffed with the central leadership over some issues, met party colleagues Ananth Kumar and Venkaiah Naidu in Delhi while his arch-rival Nitin Gadkari stayed away. The meeting is widely believed to have failed to generate relief in the Maharashtra BJP state unit as Munde hardly looked satisfied with the proposed patch-up formula. According to the deal brokered by the old guard LK Advani and Venkaiah Naidu, Madhu Chavan, who was appointed Mumbai BJP chief with Gadkari’s support will get the marching orders and be relocated in the state unit. Chavan’s appointment had upset Munde who wanted his candidate Prakash Mehta for the post.  But the stability of the Gadkari-Munde accord is doubtful as Chavan is not replaced by Mehta or Munde’s other candidate Raj Purohit but by Gopal Shetty, the bi-product of a shaky compromise between the belligerent camps, who has been reportedly handpicked by Ram Naik and Vinod Tawde. Thus, by tactfully rejecting Munde’s bid for the Mumbai post, senior leaders made it clear that crucial posts will remain subject to their discretion.

The immediate cause of Munde’s displeasure was the appointment of Vikas Matkari, one of Gadkari’s favourites, as Pune BJP president instead of Yogesh Gogawale, who happened to be Munde’s candidate for the post. Munde accused Gadkari of applying coercive tactics by rejecting the consensus for Gogawale and also taking the party hierarchy for a ride by turning a deaf ear to Venkaiah Naidu’s ratification of the same consensus. Earlier too, Munde felt humiliated when Vinod Tawade, another Gadkari candidate, was appointed as the new opposition leader of the upper house of the state assembly. Soon it became clear that with  losses were deliberately inflicted upon him by Gadkari. Gone are the days when he enjoyed near absolute power in BJP Maharashtra during the tenure of his brother-in-law Pramod Mahajan. Despite the talks, Munde still fears that he is being sidelined in the state unit since the ascension of Gadkari as party national president. Also, Munde feels that it is the return of Uma Bharti in the party which has further encouraged Gadkari to marginalize him in the party ranks. Uma Bharti is believed to be a step ahead of Munde with her vociferous and charismatic image in the party.

The Munde episode has revealed his indispensability in the party, the deep entrenchment of caste consciousness within its ranks. The reason behind the pampering of Munde is his stalwart image among the OBC voters of Maharashtra who constitute a whooping 54% of the total population of the state. On top of it, 20 out of 46 MLAs of the party belong to the Munde camp. BJP is also aware of the fact that Brahmin politics in the state cannot ensure even fringe benefits to the party. Both Gadkari and Munde have jointly shared BJP’s fortunes in the state but now with Gadkari assuming a national role, the party has its hopes tied to Munde’s goodwill. Munde’s loss will be directly proportional to BJP’s further downfall.

Saiyed Danish

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2011 on page no. 13

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