Extremely saddened, says Prime Minister Modi
The death of Union Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde in a road accident here on Tuesday, a week after the Narendra Modi government was sworn in, has come as a huge blow to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Mr. Munde was critical to the BJP’s future plans, especially its ambition of ousting the NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra in the Assembly elections, due later this year. Mr. Munde had transformed the BJP in the State by expanding the party’s support base across a wide section of people, including the backward castes to which he belonged.
It will now fall on senior party leaders from Maharashtra Nitin Gadkari and Prakash Javadekar to maintain the BJP’s support base in the State.
The BJP will also have to grapple with filling his slot in the Cabinet. A five-time MLA, Mr. Munde was inducted into the Union Cabinet for the first time. He also held the Panchayati Raj, Drinking Water and Sanitation portfolios.
Widely acknowledged as a grassroots leader, Mr. Munde transcended ideological barriers as his easy and friendly ways endeared him even to his political opponents. This was evident from the rich tributes paid to him by leaders cutting across party lines.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited the BJP headquarters to pay his last respects while party president Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Mr. Munde’s wife, offering her condolences.
“Extremely saddened and shocked by the demise of my friend and colleague Gopinath Munde ji,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted on Tuesday. A special meeting of the Union Cabinet, presided over by the Prime Minister in the evening, passed a resolution condoling the death of “a visionary leader who was held in high esteem across the political spectrum.”
The funeral will take place at his village in Beed district of Maharashtra on Wednesday afternoon.