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Bhagwangad Dussehra Meet – Pankaja’s Struggle for Ascendancy

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As the Dussehra approaches people of Maharashtra eye on the three traditional major mass meetings. The one being held in Nagpur organized by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh second is Bhagwangad Dussehra Melava started by late Central Minister Gopinathrao Munde and the 3rd is  ShivSena’s Dussehra meet on Shivaji Park Mumbai.  All these mass meetings have been conducted regularly by the respective organizers. But this year two of the above faced shadows of uncertainty. Shivsena’s dussehra meet was on radar of the Marathas for the offensive remarks on the Martha Kranti Morcha in Sena’s mouthpiece Samana,  and Bhagwangad Dussehra meet was uncertain due to the opposition of the mahant of the shrine Namdev Shastri to Pankaja Munde.

Bhagwangad is the shrine of the late saint Bhawanbaba situated near Pathardi, district Ahmednagar in western Maharashtra. This hill was inaugurated as Bhagwangad by first chief minister of Maharashtra Yashwantrao Chavan in 1958. Till then the annual function of VijayaDashami is held incessantly on Bhagwangad. After the death of Bhagwanbaba his disciple Bhimsinha Maharaj succeeded him as the abbot of the shrine.This was widely worshiped by the masses nearby.

During this time somewhere Gopinathrao Munde who was the devotee of Saint Bhagwanbaba started visiting the shrine regularly. He also started to address the mass meetings of Dussehra since 1993. Since then this shrine started getting political attention. Gopinath Munde and Bhagwangad this equation came in existence. Every year he addressed the crowed of around 10-15 lac from shrine and later that crowed became his political power. The majority crowed visiting the shrine was belonging to Vanjari Caste, the caste Munde belonged to. After the demise of Bhimsinha Mahraj of the shrine, Namdev Shastri Sanap was appointed as the Mahant (chieftain) of the shrine  by the intervention of Munde. After that also Munde kept visiting Shrine on and on.

Later after the demise of the Munde in a car accident, Namdev Shastri Sanap the Mahant of the shrine stated that he has chosen the Pankaja daughter of Munde as the daughter of the Shrine and she will continue the tradition started by late Gopinathrao Munde. 2015 was the 1st Dussehra Meet after the demise of Munde and it was successfully conducted by Munde’s Daughter Pankaja. But the prime cause of the today’s scenario of the shrine can be seen in last Dussehra meet. Dhananjay Munde nephew of late Gopinathrao Munde also visited the shrine with his supporters but he was expelled by the people by pelting stones at his fleet. This vulnus is still bleeding in Dhananjay Munde’s heart deep down somewhere.

To avenge this abasement he joined forces with the mahant of the shrine under guidance of Sharad Pawar. Pawar has given the chair of LoP in Legislative council to Dhananjay Munde in return of the Vanjari vote bank. If he fails to gain the votes of the Vanjari community as its the 3rd largest caste in Maharashtra’s politics which was the primary vote bank of late Gopinathrao Munde, Pawars closest political opponent. Now that traditional Vanjari votes went to Pankaja being the heir to Munde.

Pawar with his face cant get through these traditional Vanjari votes so he is going through Dhananjay Munde. If they stop Pankaja from making speech at the Shrine it will be big victory to Dhananjay and Pawar. After finishing Gopinathrao’s influence on the shrine it will be easier to capture the shrine it will lead to capturing the Vanjari votes.

Earlier  to counter the politics of Sharad Pawar which revolved mainly around the traditional Maratha and Dalit votes Gopinathrao Munde came with the new equation of caste politics, popularly known as “MaDhaVa” (Mali, Dhangar and Vanjari) 3 major castes after Maratha in Maharashtra. He managed to snatch the power from Pawar.  In current scenario both the equations are meaningless for Sharad Pawar as traditional Maratha and Dalit votes have separated themselves from Pawar hence he is in search of new equations. Which is probably to target Maratha and Vanjari votes together. If they somehow manage to snatch the Bhagwangad from Pankaja it will be lot easier to bring this new equation to reality.

But after today’s successful Dussehra meeting Pankaja has proved that she still has an upper hand on the Vanjari community and they have rejected Dhananjay at least for today’s date.

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