Gopinath Munde’s nephew wins bypoll on NCP ticket

In a major jolt to senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gopinath Munde, his estranged nephew Dhananjay Munde won a legislative council seat in Maharashtra on a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ticket. Dhananjay Munde had defected to the NCP in July.

Dhananjay Munde had been groomed as Gopinath Munde’s political heir but the two fell out in 2009, when he was denied a ticket to the State assembly elections. Instead, the BJP fielded Gopinath Munde’s daughter Pankaja Palve from his home constituency Parli in Beed district. Ms. Palve is now an MLA.

After his victory, Dhananjay Munde minced no words in speaking out against his uncle. “My uncle tried to harm me and crush me. But I have been vindicated. His belief that he would defeat me has been destroyed,” he said.

This was a prestige election for the senior BJP leader who got the BJP-Shiv Sena combine to support independent candidate Prithviraj Kakade. However, despite all his efforts, Dhananjay Munde won by a margin of 59 votes. The Congress-NCP had made a concerted effort to stay united during this high stakes poll. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan made it a point to attend a joint party meeting on the eve of the polls.

Dhananjay Munde is the son of Gopinath Munde’s brother Pandit Anna who had also quit the BJP to join the NCP in 2012. Since then, Dhananjay Munde had been working covertly against the BJP, helping the ruling alliance to win a few local elections.

Dhananjay Munde’s victory is expected to impact the BJP in the next assembly polls. Dhananjay Munde had been his uncle’s point-person in his home constituency and had helped manage his campaigns. He had nursed the constituency in Gopinath Munde’s absence.

“My uncle and I belong to the same constituency. It is natural that we will be challenging each other in the next polls,” Dhananjay Munde said.

The BJP is taking comfort in the fact that it split votes from the Congress-NCP combine. The saffron parties got nine more votes than they expected. “This cannot be called a defeat. He has been victorious in splitting nine votes from the Congress-NCP,” said BJP leader Girish Bapat.

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