Vidarbha leader Mungantiwar is state BJP chief

Sudhir Mungantiwar

Vidarbha leader and Ballarpur MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar is the new BJP state president, a post Nitin Gadkari held until his elevation as the BJP national president nearly four months ago.

Mungantiwar was declared elected unopposed on Friday, the first day of the three-day meeting of the party state executive in Jalgaon, and a formal announcement is expected on Saturday.

Though Mungantiwar was the frontrunner, people were kept guessing till the last minute with names of Jalna MP Raosaheb Danve Patil — known to be a loyalist of Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Beed MP Gopinath Munde— MLC Vinod Tawade, MLAs Prakash Shendge and Girish Mahajan doing the rounds.

Mungantiwar, a consensus candidate, given his rise from the grassroots, his RSS and OBC backgrounds, aggressive oratory and his age — he is 48 —now faces the challenge of steering the party to become a bulwark of opposition to the Congress-NCP regime, which scored its third successive victory in the Assembly polls last year.

Mungantiwar, whose father Dr Sacchidanand was an RSS activist, has risen from the ranks as a student leader in Chandrapur's Sardar Patel College in 1979, to the general secretary of the BJP state unit in 1996 and finally tourism and consumer protection minister in teh Sena-BJP givernment in 1999. He hails from Vidarbha, which accounts for 19 of the BJP's 46 MLAs.

He was defeated in the Lok Sabha polls in 1989 and 1991. He has held posts in the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha and was elected MLA from Chandrapur in Vidarbha's coal belt in 1995, 1999 and 2004. After Chandrapur was reserved for SCs, he was nominated from newly formed Ballarpur, where he defeated former Congress MP Naresh Pugaliya's son Rahul lat year.

As a frontbencher in the Assembly, Mungantiwar, called 'Bhau' by the cadre, and who, like his party, supports the cause of a separate state of Vidarbha, is known for legislative interventions and aggressive attacks on the state government.

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