They watched his cremation on television and recounted memories of the warm, optimistic colleague that Union Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde was.
On Wednesday, BJP members at the party headquarters here grieved the passing away of the leader, but found themselves sharing anecdotes that left them smiling.
“A couple of days ago he walked up to me and greeted me with a ‘How are you MP saheb’ [query] and congratulated me. Then he joked that mine [New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency] is the most elitist and most important constituency in the country and I wouldn’t need his help as Rural Development Minister. When I told him that this constituency extends well beyond the posh Lutyens and has as many as 64 villages, he seemed surprised,” recalled Meenakshi Lekhi.
A first-time MP, Ms. Lekhi who worked alongside Munde to draft a charge sheet against the UPA government before the Lok Sabha election, said: “He was warm, friendly and always positive.”
Party workers, who paid tributes to Munde at the office on Tuesday, are yet to come to terms with his demise.
“Till a day before we were celebrating the Lok Sabha election [victory] and the swearing-in of the new government. Now we are paying tributes to a much loved leader, it is shocking and saddening to say the least,” a party functionary said.
His Cabinet colleagues are also in shock. “We met at the Cabinet meeting on Monday and he walked up to me and said he wanted to discuss issues related to the welfare of socially backward classes. Little did I know that it would be our last conversation. We had been friends for more than 25 years,” recalled Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot.
Shrikant Sharma, who the heads BJP’s media cell, said Mr. Munde, who rose to his position from being a grassroots worker would always motivate others.
“I have never seen him weary or dispirited. He encouraged others, was warm and friendly and respected people who came up by sheer hard work. We were recently discussing the Prime Minister’s 100-day programme and he said he would present his report card to Mr. Modi. He sought inputs from us and was very keen to work out welfare measures for the farmers.”
Several others in the party described the Maharashtra leader as a “large hearted man” who could empathise with the poor and the neglected.