Pankaja lights Munde’s funeral pyre, takes over political legacy

Tens of thousands of mourning supporters and distraught family members on Wednesday bid a tearful farewell to Gopinath Munde, Maharashtra BJP’s tallest mass leader and architect of its impressive victory in Lok Sabha elections, who was killed in a car crash in Delhi on Tuesday.

Roars of ‘Gopinath Munde amar rahe’ and ‘Munde Saheb parat ya (Munde Sir, come again)’ went up as daughter Pankaja lit the funeral pyre standing amidst a sea of humanity at the departed leader’s home town in the backward Marathwada region.

Pankaja, BJP MLA from Parli and heir to Munde’s political legacy, lit her father’s funeral pyre marking a departure from the Hindu tradition of a male member of the family doing the duty and signalled her taking over the leader’s political mantle.

Grief, however, gave way to anger as the milling crowd, that had gathered under the blazing sun, became restless to have a closer glimpse of their beloved leader.

The cremation ground soon turned into a battleground with Munde’s supporters hurling stones at a large police contingent who retaliated with a cane charge. Pankaja, who till then was seen acknowledging the condolences while standing atop a platform with her father’s mortal remains, had to take charge of the proceedings.

Public address system in hand, she pleaded with the angry locals to remain calm and order was restored, only to to be broken again as the crowd that swelled by the minute began demanding a CBI inquiry into Munde’s death and went on the rampage after the cremation.

They torched a car and blocked the vehicles of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and some other ministers. TV footage showed Chavan seated in his car as protesters angrily thumped the bonnet with fists, prompting the police to use mild force.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who was present at the funeral, supported the demand for a CBI probe.
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