Ahead of Pankaja Munde's rally in Beed on Thursday on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Gopinath Munde who was a BJP stalwart, BJP's lotus symbol, as well as images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior party leaders were found to be missing from the banners. This action has given rise to the speculation of her departure from the party. Pankaja Munde, who belongs to the OBC community, had caused a flutter earlier this month with a social media post on her "future journey" in view of the changed political scenario in the state.
Pankaja Munde has invited her followers to "Gopinathgad" in Parli on Thursday. Though Pankaja Munde, a former minister, had clarified that she was not leaving the BJP, all eyes are on the Thursday event, expecting that she might make some announcement. Queried on the photos of PM Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and senior Maharashtra leaders not finding space on the banners in Beed, Pankaja Munde's sister and local BJP MP Pritam Munde said they didn't want to keep Gopinath Munde's image restricted to any particular political party.
"My father was a public personality. Hundreds of thousands of people from various regions and political background have deep respect for him. We have not used the BJP's poll symbol, lotus, as well as photos of Modiji or Shahji because we do want to restrict Gopinath Munde's image to any political party," she told reporters on Wednesday.
After her defeat in the Maharashtra assembly polls, Munde, a Former Minister had stirred speculations of her departure from the party, after she removed "BJP" from her Twitter bio. "I am not leaving the party. Defection is not in my blood," Pankaja had told reporters. Pankaja Munde lost the assembly polls against her cousin and NCP candidate Dhananjay Munde from her home turf Parli in Beed district. Since the results were out on October 24, Pankaja Munde did not visit her hometown, raising speculations about her future plans.
As reports of her exit from the saffron party emerged, BJP's former ally Shiv Sena said that they would be happy to welcome Munde, if she chooses to join the ruling party in Maharashtra. Speaking to ANI, Shiv Sena leader Abdul Sattar said, "On December 12, Pankaja Munde will decide on where she will go next. If she joins Shiv Sena, we will happily welcome her. Late Gopinath JI and Balasaheb Ji shared a cordial relationship in the past."
(With PTI inputs)