Pune: Gopinath Munde’s rise from Pune was not only important for the city but was strategically a great political move as he poised the first major challenge to Sharad Pawar, says former city unit president of the BJP Vijay Kale.
Kale, who was one of the non-Brahmin city unit presidents, took over the reins of the city unit after Munde’s well-directed efforts. Munde was instrumental in changing the face of the party by involving leaders from other castes—Vishwas Gangurde, Ashok Salunkhe, Kale, Anil Shirole, Dilip Kamble and Gopal Chintal.
“Munde launched his Sangharsha Yatra or Confrontation Pilgrimage from the foothills of Fort Shivneri,” recalls Kale, adding, “Munde did it not only because Shivneri is the birthplace for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj but for the simple reason that he wanted to challenge Pawar in his home turf. According to Kale, no political party could have ever imagined that at that time the Congress and Pawar could be defeated. “However, Munde and late Pramod Mahajan, with the help of Shiv Sena, made it a reality,” he adds.
Former Lok Sabha MP and former city unit president Pradip Rawat said that Munde was one of the late Vasantrao Bhagwat’s 10 students. He added that Munde’s biggest contribution was to help the party evolve from the clutches of upper caste leaders in 1995.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Dr Neelam Gorhe said that Munde was a great mass leader, who had created networks for farmers, peasants, nomadic tribes, sugarcane cutters and students. He played a vital role as a leader of the opposition in Maharashtra and shaping the fate of BJP after the nineties. “He was a dynamic leader with a mass base. It is a big loss for Maharashtra,” said Gorhe.