Leaders blame media for spreading rumours on Munde

The Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra closed ranks on Wednesday after hearing that Gopinath Munde would not leave the party and reaffirmed its faith in his leadership.

Blaming the media for spreading rumours about the possible exit of Munde, leaders burst crackers outside the Nariman Point headquarters.

BJP State president Sudhir Mungantiwar, who met Mr. Munde on Tuesday, termed the reports that he was leaving the party mere rumours. “I have already stated that he is not going to leave, since he was the one who had given a direction to the party.” He said Mr. Munde had spoken his mind to the central leadership.

He said all workers were with Mr. Munde.

While Mr. Munde, MP from Beed and deputy leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, has been staying away from party rallies, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Eknath Khadse has been firm that Mr. Munde will not quit. “I have been saying this all along that Munde was not going to leave. He has [made] a significant contribution to the party, and we will work under his direction. He has played a leadership role in the party in Maharashtra and will always continue to do so.”

Shiv Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe expressed happiness that Munde had not left the BJP. The new alliance among the Republican Party of India (Athavale), the Shiv Sena and the BJP suffered a setback when Mr. Munde repeatedly skipped public meetings.

However, the rivalry between BJP MLC Vinod Tawde and Mr. Munde looks set to continue. Mr. Munde was against Pandurang Phundkar, Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council being replaced by Mr. Tawde, BJP president Nitin Gadkari's a confidant.

The Munde-Gadkari rivalry could not be resolved so simply, said a party source. Mr. Munde's grievances had to be seriously addressed, and he had to be given a definite leadership role at least before the next elections. He was left out of the decision-making in the State, and despite his role at the Centre, he remained unhappy.

At 34, Mr. Munde headed the BJP in Maharashtra and is a five-time MLA. He contested the Lok Sabha elections from Beed in 2009 and promised to put the State issues on the national map. However, despite being made Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Munde feels disgruntled as his clout is being sought to be diminished in the State. After his meeting with BJP leaders in New Delhi, it remains to be seen what is the solution to the factionalism in Maharashtra and how Munde can get on top of it.

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