Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national secretary Pankaja Munde shared the dais with her estranged cousin, Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Dhananjay Munde on Tuesday during a government programme as Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, attempting to reconcile the cousins, exhorted them to remain united and work together for the development of Beed district and the State.
Ms. Munde, the daughter of late BJP stalwart Gopinath Munde, shared the staged with Dhananjay Munde, who is the State’s Agriculture Minister and the Guardian Minister of Beed, at a jam-packed event of the ‘Government at your Doorstop’ programme in Parli. The event saw CM Shinde, Deputy CM and rebel NCP leader Ajit Pawar, and Mr. Fadnavis come together on one stage.
Mr. Dhananjay owes allegiance to the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP.
Fadnavis praises Pankaja
Mr. Fadnavis, whose relations with Pankaja Munde have been politically fraught, lavished fulsome praise on the work done by Ms. Munde when she had served as a Minister in Mr. Fadnavis’ erstwhile government (2014-2019).
“I will request both Pankaja tai and Dhananjay Munde to keep jointly sharing the dais for future programmes as well. Our [CM Shinde, Ajit Pawar and Mr. Fadnavis] combined strength is behind you. We stand firmly with you, Pankaja tai. If you and Dhananjay stay together, then it can only lead to the development of Parli, Beed and Maharashtra,” said Mr. Fadnavis.
Ms. Munde, who is believed to be a bitter political ‘rival’ to Mr. Fdnavis, was seen sharing moments of bonhomie with the Deputy CM on the stage.
The Deputy CM further assured both cousins that he would personally ensure that their demand for Central funds for the development of the Parli Vaijnath township (Parli is considered as the stronghold of the Munde clan) was fulfilled by the Modi government.
“You have both demanded Central funds for the development of Vaijnath. I am sure the CM will recommend it to the Centre. I, personally, will go and make sure that the development plan is accepted by the Modi government,” Mr. Fadnavis said.
He praised Ms. Munde’s work in implementing the ‘Jal Yukt Shivar’ programme during her tenure as former Guardian Minister of Beed, a post now held by Mr. Dhananjay.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Munde said she was willing to be sharing any platform that was concerned with the development of Beed and Maharashtra, while remarking that she had “never troubled anyone from any other political party nor bore any ill-will towards them”.
Shinde the ‘unifier’
Mr. Dhananjay praised CM Shinde as “the unifier” for getting the cousins to share the stage.
“The attraction of today’s programme is that my sister [Pankaja] and me are together and Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar are together. It proves that you [Mr. Shinde] are truly the unifier,” Mr. Munde said, remarking: “I give my word that Pankaja tai and myself will together ensure that Beed is soon the most progressive district in Maharashtra.”
In the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election, Ms. Munde had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Mr. Dhananjay who unseated her in Parli.
It was said that the reason for Ms. Munde’s subsequent disgruntlement was due to then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ “authoritarian style” of running the BJP in the State and eliminating his potential “rivals” in a Machiavellian fashion. Since then, Ms. Munde and Mr. Fadnavis had avoided sharing stage during public events.
Relations between Ms. Munde and her own party brass took a further dive after two crackdowns by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Commissionerate on her sugar factory in Beed.
A clearly disappointed Ms. Munde, in a veiled rebuke at the BJP-ruled Central and State governments, had said that had they helped her sugar mill out, a crisis could have been averted.
In July this year, Ms. Munde had refuted speculation of her having met Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in Delhi, while stating “betrayal does not run in my blood”. She had further said she would be taking a two-month break from the hurly-burly of politics in order to “introspect”.