New Delhi: Amid reports of discontent in the Munde camp in Maharashtra, BJP national secretary Pankaja Munde attended a meeting of party secretaries with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief J.P. Nadda Sunday.
Earlier in the day, Pankaja’s 20-odd supporters had resigned from their party posts over her sister Pritam not being included in the recently expanded Union Council of Ministers.
Sources in the BJP told ThePrint that Pankaja did not meet the prime minister separately but only participated in the secretary meeting.
Pankaja has called a meeting of her supporters on 13 July in Mumbai as a show of strength and to express resentment. However, senior party leaders dismissed these reports, noting that Pankaja is a national secretary.
Pankaja and Pritam are the daughters of Gopinath Munde, the late Union minister who was considered the BJP’s ‘OBC face’ in Maharashtra. Gopinath was instrumental in establishing the BJP in the state along with Pramod Mahajan.
In his government expansion last week, PM Modi had inducted Bhagwat Karad, a Rajya Sabha MP, as minister of state. Karad was an associate of Gopinath Munde and was even groomed by him.
Both Karad and Pankaja belong to the Vanzara community, which comes under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.
Pankaja had been hoping for a Union berth for her sister Pritam, the MP from Beed. According to a BJP leader close to Pankaja, the Munde family views the induction of Karad as an effort to undermine Pankaja in the Marathwada region, a stronghold of Gopinath Munde. “The development comes at a time the BJP in Maharashtra is making a move to consolidate OBC votes in the reservation issue,” the leader said.
Though Pankaja publicly said she was not unhappy with the decision to not include Pritam, the sources said the many resignations of party workers could not have happened without her knowledge. Pankaja also did not post any congratulatory message on her social media handles for either Karad or the other ministers. Neither did Pritam.
“We share a very cordial bond with our supporters… it is a long lasting relationship not based on power or post. They are hurt as Pritam Munde did not make it to the Union Cabinet,” Pankaja told the media Friday, two days after the expansion, when asked about the resignations.
‘BJP trying to undercut Munde family’
The BJP leader quoted above told ThePrint: “It is not a question of Pritam only… last time BJP helped Dhananjay Munde defeat Pankaja in the assembly polls because (Devendra) Fadnavis did not want any rival to become a challenger to him. If BJP was sympathetic to Gopinath Munde, why was she (Pankaja) not named in the legislative council? Now, Pritam, who is a Lok Sabha MP… instead of nominating her, BJP inducted the Rajya Sabha MP from the same caste group.”
The leader added that the party “has even not given Poonam Mahajan, daughter of Pramod Mahajan, her due”.
“Fadnavis does not want to see Poonam and Pankaja become rivals to him as both have a family background and charisma,” the leader said.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana Friday claimed that Karad’s induction in the Union Cabinet aimed to finish the political career of Pankaja Munde. “Karad grew up in the shadow of BJP leader Gopinath Munde… there is room to doubt whether this move is aimed at creating a division of votes in the Vanzara community and teach Pankaja a lesson,” the Saamana editorial read.
Pritam, a doctor by profession, was chosen to represent Gopinath’s seat after his death. She won the Beed seat by 7 lakh votes as Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar didn’t put up any contender as a mark of respect for Gopinath.
The BJP leader close to the Munde family said Pankaja will continue her struggle in the party since Gopinath was loyal to the BJP. However, she considers her role in the party’s national team as a token measure since many young MPs have been given larger profiles.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)
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