Pankaja Munde. Image Source: IANS News

Parli : , Oct 15 (IANS) Maharashtra Assembly Election for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has been a butter smooth, if not a cakewalk so far. With Sena on its side and a bickering Congress as opposition, Devendra Fadnavis is facing what any leader would hope for. But for one BJP leader, it's been a rough campaign where she is being forced to prove worthy of taking forward her father's legacy - Pankaja Munde.

Faced with a challenge from her own cousin, Pankaja has been restricted to her constituency Parli in Maharashtra. Dhananjay Munde has been fielded against Pankaja by Sharad Pawar's NCP, who is delivering one liners peppered with wit that his opponent is bound to take note of.

The 44-year old was close to Gopinath Munde, who personally mentored him before handing over the seat to her daughter. But now, with him gone, both are pouncing on the Munde Senior's legacy.

Dhananjay Munde is focusing on road side meetings and connect with people than organising massive rallies addressed by high profile leaders. And in meetings after meetings, Dhananjay has not left any stone unturned to underscore the point that Pankaja Munde is not the 'able' inheritor of her father's legacy.

Munde senior is still the overarching figure in the region, many years after his death. Locals say, Dhananjay's oratory and people connect ability reminds them of Gopinath Munde. Deploying every mechanism possible - from playing audio visuals on screens to generate curiosity on social media via a small but dedicated team, this cousin of Pankaja is out to outmanoeuvre her.

What makes it tough for Dhananjay is - he is fighting against a BJP candidate who across the state is primarily seen as the one with the blessing of PM Narendra Modi. What makes it even more tougher for him are local issues like water scarcity or joblessness are put on the backburner and are replaced by hyper nationalist issues like the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, which resonate among the electorate.

That's why he has been extremely careful on not touching those emotive issues at all but thrusting on issues like joblessness. In meetings after meetings, Dhananjay has asked people whether they are satisfied with the job scenario. This interactive mechanism also gives a personal touch to his campaign.

But the man who has challenged the daughter of a leader, who even after years of his untimely death, remains the most respected individual in the region, believes he has a very fair chance of outperforming Pankaja Munde.

He has reasons for his confidence. In 2014 Assembly elections that were held soon after the general elections and touted to be a 'Modi Tsunami', he lost against Pankaja by a reasonable margin of around 25,000 votes. Also Gopinath Munde's death in a road accident had a massive sympathy for anyone who would fight from BJP. His loss was despite these circumstances that were strongly in favour of Pankaja.

Now, in 2019, in each and every rally Dhananjay Munde is questioning Pankaja Munde as a 'rightful' inheritor of Gopinath Munde's legacy. But he has been extremely careful of not hurting people's sentiment by attacking her brazenly, using terms like "taisaheb" (sister). While the 'taisaheb' herself enjoys privilege of being 'Modi's candidate' and daughter of Gopinath Munde, Dhananjay is countering her every day saying he too has the Munde lineage.

In this battle royale, Pankaja isn't having as easy as BJP is in Maharashtra.

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