Beed: Daughters of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde are in the poll arena contesting from the Parli Assembly and Beed Lok Sabha constituencies in a bid to retain their father's political legacy.
BJP MLA Pankaja, Munde's eldest daughter, is pitted against her estranged cousin Dhananjay Munde, who is Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) nominee from Parli Assembly seat.
Munde's daughter Pritam will take on former Congress minister Ashok Patil in the Lok Sabha bypoll, which is also scheduled for October 15.
While Pritam seems confident of winning the bypoll, for Pankaja, who is a member of BJP's state core committee, retaining the Parli seat looks a challenging, if not impossible, task, with Dhananjay's rallies also attracting crowds.
Top leaders of BJP, including Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, have addressed campaign rallies for the Munde sisters, while NCP leaders Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar have campaigned for their party nominees in the district.
It was a measure of Munde's popularity that the Prime Minister commenced his Assembly election campaign from Beed with an acknowledgment that had Munde been alive there would have been no need for him to canvass for votes in the state.
Shiv Sena has chosen not to put up a candidate against Munde sisters, while the NCP has not fielded anyone against Pritam as announced by Sharad Pawar soon after Munde's death.
Pankaja expressed her gratitude to Sena president Uddhav Thackeray for not fielding candidates against her and Pritam.
In 2009, except for Parli Assembly segment, NCP won all other seats in Beed district.
"I prefer not to comment on my sister Pankaja. I am seeking votes on development which I brought to this constituency as an MLC," Dhananjay said After Munde died in a road accident in New Delhi in June, Pankaja has emerged as the new OBC face of the BJP in Maharashtra.
Munde, who belonged to the Vanjari community, was considered the tallest OBC leader of the state.
"Uddhavji has maintained family relations even after the Mahayuti (alliance) ended, and I am grateful. We may be fighting separately, but by not putting up a candidate against me, he has stood beside me," Pankaja Munde said.
Uddhav had declared that the Sena would not field candidates against the Munde sisters.
"We will not contest against Pankaja and Pritam Munde. We have family ties with the Mundes' and we will not let politics interfere with that relation," he said.
With Pankaja, who recently undertook a statewide 'Sangharsh Yatra', deciding to focus on affairs in Maharashtra, BJP chose to field Pritam for Beed Lok Sabha bypoll, necessitated due to her father's death.
Sharad Pawar had publicly declared after Munde's death that his party won't field any candidate if any family member of the Munde family were to contest the bypoll.
Pritam Munde, who is based in Nashik, began her campaign over a month ago, by visiting Parli, Beed and other areas of the constituency.
NCP's Ramesh Adaskar, who contested against Gopinath Munde during the earlier Lok Sabha poll, recently joined the BJP.
Pankaja Munde had embarked on a 'yatra' in poll-bound Maharashtra, similar to another such exercise in 1995 by Gopinath Munde, which had helped the BJP-Sena alliance come to power in Maharashtra for the first time.
The 14-day, 3,000 km 'yatra' which began from August 27 was also seen as the BJP's bid to project Pankaja as the party's Other Backward Caste (OBC) face after Gopinath Munde.
Gopinath Munde had undertaken his 1995 'yatra' campaign against Sharad Pawar over the controversial Enron project and he became Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra in the government headed by the Shiv Sena's Manohar Joshi.