New Delhi: Union Minister Gopinath Munde's sudden death is a huge loss to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Munde, who was the Minister of Rural Development in the Narendra Modi government, was considered to be the rural face of the party and was even one of the frontrunners to be the party's Chief Ministerial candidate for the forthcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections.
He was a very popular OBC leader from Maharashtra. He was very accessible and had a huge following. He wanted to reform and modernise rural development ministry.
Munde had won the 2014 Lok Sabha election from the Beed Constituency and was scheduled to address a victory rally on Tuesday. A pall of gloom descended on the Parli Vaijnath town in the Beed district of Marathwada region as the news of the demise of its most illustrious son trickled in.
Munde hailed from Tehsil Parli in the Beed district of the Marathwada region. He was late BJP General Secretary Pramod Mahajan's brother-in-law and was introduced to politics by Mahajan. After Mahajan's death, Munde was the guardian of the Mahajan family.
Munde, the people's leader, started off his political career as a Jan Sangh leader. He was the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra from 1995 to 1999.
The most prominent leader of the party in Maharashtra for over two decades along with his late brother-in-law Pramod Mahajan, Munde was the architect of the social engineering formula by cobbling up the opposition 'Mahayuti' alliance which got 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the recent Lok Sabha polls.
A known detractor of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Munde was credited with neutralising the Maratha politician's influence to such an extent that the Sena-BJP combine came to power in the 1995 Assembly polls and he became the Deputy Chief Minister.
He was the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from 1992 to 1995. In 2009, he was elected as the BJP's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha.
Munde, who won the 2014 Lok Sabha election from Beed by a margin of 1,36,454 votes, was made the Minister of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water and Sanitation in the Modi Cabinet. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, Munde was a dynamic leader whose premature demise leaves a void hard to fill.
Born on December 12, 1949, and hailing from Nathra village in Beed district, Munde was member of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for five terms, 1980-1985, 1990-2009. He was born to Pandurang Munde and Limbabai Munde in a middle class Vanjari (caste) farmer's family. He is survived by wife and three daughters - Pankaja, Pritam and Yashashri. Pankaja Palave represents the Parli Assembly seat in Beed district.
(With additional information from PTI)