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BJP suffers yet another blow in Pune as sitting MP and stalwart leader Girish Bapat passes away

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Mumbai: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Lok Sabha MP of Pune, Girish Bapat passed away Wednesday after a long illness, aged 72. He was admitted to the city’s Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital earlier on Wednesday and put on life support after his health deteriorated, but succumbed soon after.

Girish Bapat’s demise is the third major setback for the BJP in Pune district in less than four months; the party lost two influential leaders, then Kasba Peth MLA Mukta Tilak and its sitting Chinchwad MLA Laxman Jagtap in December 2022 and January this year respectively.

Girish Bapat, a former Maharashtra cabinet minister, made his political mark as a corporator in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in 1983. Known as an astute leader who cultivated personal friendships across the political spectrum, Bapat held the tricky Kasba Peth Assembly segment for five consecutive terms for the BJP between 1995 and 2019.

In fact, such was Bapat’s hold over the Kasba segment, that his absence in the by-poll last month severely hurt the BJP’s chances and resulted in the Congress (and MVA’s) candidate Ravindra Dhangekar wresting the seat from the BJP after nearly 30 years.

Bapat was a rare breed of politicians who was well-loved and respected by politicians not just in his own party, but the opposition as well, besides being regarded affectionately by people from a wide social spectrum.

In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP high command had dropped its sitting MP Anil Shirole in favour of Girish Bapat. The latter then defeated his Congress rival Mohan Joshi by a colossal margin of nearly 3.30 lakh votes.

Prior to contesting for the Pune MP seat, Bapat had incidentally vacated the Kasba Peth for his late colleague, Mukta Tilak, who predeceased him three months ago.

Tributes and condolences poured across the political spectrum, with Chief Minister and Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde stating that in Bapat’s passing, not just Pune but Maharashtra had lost a tall leader.

“Girish Bapat continued to energize his party even while struggling with terminal illness. Whenever I used to meet him, I was amazed at his knowledge on a vast number of subjects and not just politics. As an MLA, MP and Minister in the State Cabinet, he always took the initiative to solve problems of common people. As Guardian Minister, he had taken firm steps for the development of Pune. He always had excellent relations with not just people within his party but with those from other parties as well. The State has lost a friendly and kind-hearted leader,” said Shinde while paying his tributes to the departed leader.

Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, while remarking Bapat’s passing as extremely sad news, said he was an utterly dedicated leader whose death “leaves a void that cannot be filled.”

Paying rich tributes to Bapat, senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar, who is current Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, said that the departed BJP leader always transcended the narrow-minded confines of caste, creed, regionality in his political career.  

Senior NCP leader from Pune Ankush Kakade could not hide his tears as he recalled instances of their personal friendship. Another senior NCP leader Eknath Khadse (formerly with the BJP), recalled Bapat’s political skill in setting up his party establishment in places where the BJP had no influence whatsoever. State NCP President Jayant Patil noted that Bapat had the uncanny ability to forge friendships with people despite political differences.


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