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Munde's daughter looks set to keep seat in family stronghold

By Vilas Tokale
October 04, 2009 21:15 IST
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The announcement of candidature of Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Gopinath Munde's daughter Pankaja along with that of cousin Poonam Mahajan has met with severe criticism that BJP too is going the Congress way in following dynastic politics. However, the flak is the last thing on Pankaja's mind as she goes about campaigning for the October 13 Assembly poll from this constituency in Marathwada's hinterland.

A total of three members from the family of late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan and brother-in-law Munde are contesting the assembly elections on BJP tickets. Mahajan's daughter Poonam is contesting from Ghatkopar in suburban Mumbai while Madhusudan Kendre, son-in-law of Munde's elder brother, is in fray from Gangakhed in Marathwada region. Rubbishing allegations of nepotism, Munde said, "Pankaja has worked with me in Parli-Vaijnath for years. She knows the people there and they know her. Why should she not contest?" Pankaja Munde-Palave, a business management graduate from Seton Hill University, New Jersey, is taking on Congress candidate T P Munde, a professor at the Baijnath college where she studied. The professor had unsuccessfully contested the last Assembly elections from Renapur seat, which Gopinath had won five times. But post-delimitation, the constituency has ceased to exist. 

Half the 2.5 lakh voters in Parli are women, a factor likely to go in favour of Pankaja."This is the first time after over two decades that a prominent party has fielded a woman candidate and Pankaja, who has done grassroot work in the constituency, would attract women voters in large numbers," a local BJP functionary said.
The Congress-NCP combine does not have the kind of network Munde has in the constituency, which would help Pankaja sail through, the observers said. Also in fray from Parli is a professor belonging to the nomadic Kolhati community. Sushma Andhare, who is contesting as an independent, says her fight is against the "dynastic rule" of the Mundes in Parli.
"Babasaheb Ambedkar said a king should not be born to a king but he should emerge from the ballot box," Sushma said.
However, the fact that she is not aware of who her real father is, as she was born into a Kolhati house, is in stark
contrast to the clout surrounding father of her opponent.
Munde's nephew Dhananjay, an office bearer of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the youth outfit of BJP, was keen
on contesting from Parli. Dhananjay was considered political heir of Munde, who has three daughters. However, with Pankaja's entry the adage "blood is thicker.." was proved right as the nephew was forced to make way for the daughter.
However, contrary to the expectations of rival political parties, Dhananjay did not go sulking and is fully involved in
Pankaja's campaign.

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Vilas Tokale in Parli, Maharashtra
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