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2019 Lok Sabha elections: Munde cousins slug it out in Beed

In the backdrop of this turf war, the third member of the family, Pritam, who is Pankaja’s younger sister , is seeking re-election as BJP MP with Pankaja backing her .

Updated: Apr 12, 2019, 23:26 IST

By Surendra P Gangan,

(Hindustan Times)

For several years, Central Maharashtra’s Beed district was known as the home turf of BJP leader Gopinath Munde. Following his death in 2014, the area is now a political battle of wills between Munde’s daughter and state’s rural development minister Pankaja, who stakes claim to his legacy, and her cousin, Dhananjay, once regarded as Munde’s right hand and now a prominent NCP leader.

In the backdrop of this turf war, the third member of the family, Pritam, who is Pankaja’s younger sister , is seeking re-election as BJP MP with Pankaja backing her .

In a public meeting in Deorai, Dhananjay, who is also the Opposition Leader in the state legislative council, criticises Pankaja and Pritam for their ‘failed promises’. He also does not forget to respond to Pankaja’s barb of him being a ‘traitor’ (Dhananjay had quit BJP to join NCP).

With the temperatures often crossing 40° C, the campaign heat is also increasing with allegations and counter-allegations in the Munde family drama.



Dhananjay hits out at Pritam and Pankaja for an inordinate delay in the Parli-Beed-Ahmednagar railway line, failure in implementing 78 irrigation projects , failure to bring a rail coach factory to the district (it went to neighbouring Latur), low fair remunerative price given to cane farmers, among other issues. Dhananjay also levels corruption charges against her for alleged financial irregularities in the women and child development department.

Similarly, Pankaja takes on her cousin in almost every public meeting. She accuses Dhananjay of back-stabbing party leader Amarshinh Pandit. She also accuses Dhananjay of grabbing land for his proposed textile mill and calls him ‘anti-party leader’ over some leaders quitting NCP.

“These personal attacks are not new as it is a fight for control within the family. The allegations levelled by the NCP against BJP are baseless as all projects are underway. Irrigation projects are stuck for want of clearance from the technical committee , while the railway project is nearing completion. The NCP should tell voters about their contribution during their rule of 15 years here,” said BJP legislator Suresh Dhas ,who was earlier in NCP.

The NCP had recently moved court against the government order of giving powers of allotting cattle camps to Beed’s guardian minister Pankaja. “I never stoop to a personal level as they are my younger sisters. I raise development-related issues. Only 8% of the Parli-Beed-Ahmednagar project has been completed after two decades from its announcement. Our MP could not bring a rail coach factory to Beed, while Latur’s guardian minister could ensure it . Our government had given approval to 78 irrigation projects, but they have not progressed in five years,” said Dhananjay.

Jolted by several key leaders quitting the party , the NCP has fielded district president Bajrang Sonawane against Pritam Munde. Dhas, Jaydutt Kshirsagar, Vinayak Mete switched over to the BJP after Dhananjay joined the party. Jaydutt Kshirsagar officially quit NCP last week and appealed to his supporters to work for the BJP candidate. Dhas, who was elected as a member of legislative council last year, has thrown his weight behind the BJP candidate. However, the Munde sisters suffered a setback when Mete announced he was supporting the NCP candidate as Pankaja ensured he was not made a state minister .

The development has also sparked off a caste tussle, which always existed in the constituency, but was not out in the open for past few years — Marathas versus Wanjaris. Beed district has about 5 lakh Wanjari voters and about 6 lakh Marathas. Gopinath Munde was undisputed leader of not just Wanjaris, but of OBCs too.

The NCP is now banking on Maratha votes. The party is known as a Maratha- friendly party. Further, its candidate Sonawane is a Maratha.

From development issues to personal attacks, the campaigns also see emotive appeals on the basis of caste. Pankaja alleged in a recent meeting that the NCP candidate was banking on Maratha votes. “The Wanjari community with about 5 lakh voters staunchly supports the Munde sisters, while NCP is banking on Maratha voters as the candidate is from the community. Besides Wanjari, the BJP candidate is banking on votes by other OBC castes,” said a lcal BJP leader.

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