Just as the Bharatiya Janata Party was preparing to take on the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine in the forthcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections, the party has lost its tallest leader in the State, Gopinath Munde.

The tragic demise of the Union Rural Development Minister, who was the face of Maharashtra in the Narendra Modi government, will add to the political churn among top BJP leaders in the State and could fuel tension with its ally, the Shiv Sena.

Mr. Munde, a former deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, was to have played a crucial role in the BJP’s electoral strategy for the Assembly elections. The 64-year-old leader was being projected as a possible Chief Minister if the BJP-Sena combine came to power, even though the Sena wanted its leader Uddhav Thackeray as the chief ministerial candidate.