Gopinath Munde, former Deputy Chief Minister of the State, was the tallest and the most experienced leader of the BJP. He is credited to have changed the face of Maharashtra politics and also the BJP. Before the 1980s, the State politics was dominated by Marathas like Yashvantrao Chavan and Sharad Pawar. But Munde alongwith his friend Pramod Mahajan, both hailing from Marathwada region, diminish their dominance.
Munde was the architect of the social engineering formula by cobbling up the opposition 'Mahayuti' alliance which got 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the State in the recent Lok Sabha polls. He brought several diverse forces like RPI (Athawale), Shivsangram (an offshoot of Maratha Mahasangh) and Swabhimani Shetkari Sangthana against the Congress - NCP alliance.
Election management skills of both Deshmukh and Munde were legendary.
OBC face of BJP in Maharashtra and former Deputy Chief Minister,
Gopinath Munde, was all set to spearhead the party's campaign in
the upcoming Assembly polls in the State. But, he died in a road
accident in June this year. Until his death, he was being seen as a
front runner from the BJP camp.
BJP cadre feel that had Munde been alive, the party would have been in much stronger position today and would have much say in its alliance with Shiv Sena.
Vilashrao Deshmukh may not be the mass leader, but the Congress
cadre in the State is surely missing him. Unlike the present Chief
Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Deshmukh was very well aware with the
ground realities. He was connected with the grass-root workers.
Deshmukh was a smart, pragmatic, astute leader who was known for his management skills. Vilasrao was the only leader who could handle the party in time of crisis. In absence of leaders like Deshmukh, the party is finding its difficult to retain its ground.