Maharashtra: Balasaheb, Pawar relation beyond politics

Maharashtra: Balasaheb, Pawar relation beyond politics

An old photo of late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, late socialist leader and trade unionist George Fernandes and NCP president Sharad Pawar. (File photo)

Despite being on diametrically opposite sides of the political spectrum, relations between late Bal Thackeray and Sharad Pawar were beyond politics. In the 1960s, Thackeray and Pawar, now 79, wanted to launch a magazine that could complete with the Time magazine. The dummy issue was ready but the magazine failed to come out. Late Thackeray's son and Shiv Sena president Uddhav and the Shiv Sena founder's nephew and MNS chief Raj, continue to share good personal relations with the Pawar family.

In May 2005, when Bal Thackeray, a cartoonist, and Pawar, came together in a public forum after 23 years, the latter shared about their magazine plan to a gathering that saw George Fernandes, late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, Lata Mangeshkar and Amitabh Bachchan.

Ever since the Shiv Sena was formed on 19 June, 1966, Thackeray and Pawar knew each other. Just to mention, Pawar won his first election from Baramati in 1967.

Thackeray always fondly referred to Pawar as "Sharad Babu" and from political stage called him 'maidyaancha pota' (sack of flour) - and for the latter it was Balasaheb. The two leaders not only discussed about politics but they discussed art, culture and sports. Whenever time permitted, Pawar, the Maratha strongman, would visit Matoshree, the bungalow of the Thackerays in Bandra, He enjoyed food cooked by Thackeray's wife Meenatai.

When Pawar was chief minister, Thackeray had several times visited Varsha, the CM's house in Malabar Hill. The Thackeray-couple was a visitor to the private home of Pawars.

In September 2006, when Pawar nominated his daughter Supriya Sule for the Rajya Sabha polls, Thackeray did not put up a Shiv Sena candidate but was angry as the NCP supremo had not told him about this.Thackeray and Pawar along with Fernandes, united against trade unionist Datta Samant during 1982 mill workers strike. Fernandes was among the few who called Thackeray by his first name, Bal. For Thackeray and Pawar, Fernandes was just George.

However, politically, their relations had soured when in 1991, Chhagan Bhujbal defected from the Shiv Sena to Congress, along with a huge group of MLAs. Ad a result, Manohar Joshi had go give away the post of leader of Opposition to late Gopinath Munde.

In 1995, when Pawar was a Congress chief minister, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance won the polls to remove him out of power. In 1999, Pawar formed the NCP but after Assembly polls, it formed the Congress-NCP Democratic Front alliance to remove the Sena-BJP from power.