Ahmednagar (Maharshtra): On Dussehra, Maharashtra Minister Pankaja Munde and her sister MP Pritam Munde on Tuesday put up a massive show of strength, virtually cementing their claim to the socio-political legacy of the late Union Minister Gopinath Munde, leader of the marginal Vanzari community.
The display of support took place symbolically at the Bhagwangad Temple, on the hills bordering Ahmednagar-Beed districts of the backward Marathwada region.
Though estimates varied, more than seven-eight lakh people from all over the state turned up, giving a major boost to the Munde sisters, especially Pankaja, who was embroiled in an ugly spat with the head priest of the Bhagwangad Temple, Mahant Namdeoshastri Sanap since past few weeks.
The controversy arose after the temple management declined permission to address the annual Dussehra rally at the temple, but Munde’s supporters said she should be permitted as her father addressed his supporters for 20 years.
Earlier in the day, Pritam Munde led a motorcade of over a 1,000 big and small vehicles from Beed to Bhagwangad with several thousands of supporters joining en route.
Later, Pankaja Munde arrived at the base of the temple in a helicopter sending the huge crowds into raptures and along with a handful of people she went up for a ‘darshan’ of Saint Bhagwan Baba.
She was accompanied by her husband Amit Palwe, backward castes leaders of other friendly parties including Raju Shetti, Mahadev Jankar, Sadabhau Khot and Ram Shinde.
However, at the temple, she avoided meeting the Mahant, who had said she was welcome to the place of worship, but would not be permitted to speak there.
The massive turnout stumped many in political circles, prompting former minister and senior most BJP leader Eknath Khadse to throw his weight behind Pankaja Munde.
“I am with Pankaja-tai (Pankaja sister). This is not a ‘shakti-pradarshan’ (show of strength) but a ‘bhakti-pradarshan’ (show of faith) here,” Khadse added.