Mumbai: Taking a trip down the memory lane, former Shiv Sena leaders Chhagan Bhujbal and Narayan Rane, who are currently ministers in the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra, today said they owe their political identities to their erstwhile party.
"Shiv Sena gave us our identity in politics. Had there been no Shiv Sena or Bal Thackeray, Chhagan Bhujbal or Narayan Rane would not have been in Maharashtra politics. Same is the case with Raj Thackeray," both Bhujbal and Rane said.
They were participating in a programme organised by the Mantralaya and Vidhimandal Vartahar Sangh to condole the passing away of the Shiv Sena supremo last week.
The 86-year old Sena patriarch was also the founder-editor of Marathi newspaper `Saamana` and an acclaimed cartoonist, who started off his career with the Free Press Journal.
Rane recalled that after he quit the Sena in 2005 due to differences with Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, he had spoken to his mentor twice over telephone.
"When Uddhav published a book on his photographs, a copy was sent to me for my comments. I wrote back appreciating the work. Balasaheb called me and said he appreciated my remarks praising Uddhav`s work. There was no politics involved. On another occasion, he telephoned to tell me not to keep enmity with Uddhav, even though our path of politics is separate," the state Industries minister said.
Rane said Balasaheb lived life `king size`, never feared anybody and always honoured his commitment to others.
"He was a satisfied man. As a charismatic leader, he had friends from all sections of the society," he added.
Rane said, in the last one week he has been asked if he
valued Shiv Sena so much, why did he quit.
"This is a moment to pay homage and tributes to one`s mentor. I do not intend to score political points. Balasaheb has given me enough in politics during his lifetime," he added.
Rane maintained that Shiv Sena was his past and Congress was his future.
Bhujbal, who fought a bitter battle for his erstwhile party and mentor for nearly 20 years to patch up a few years ago, recalled that he had experienced the love and also faced the wrath of Shiv sainiks in the extreme.
"When we patched up a few years ago, Balasaheb welcomed me in his house as if nothing had happened. We did not speak politics. He only enquired about my children," he recalled.
Describing Thackeray as a "great leader" who "always went against the tide", Bhujbal said, he was almost a family member of the Thackerays, so much that he could take decisions on the medical treatment of Thackeray`s wife Meenatai without consulting him.
Recalling an incident in the 80s, Bhujbal said when he was vacationing with his family, he got a call from Manohar Joshi saying that he will have to contest the Garware Club president elections.
"I argued that I had no contacts in the field of cricket to canvass for support. But Joshi said he would help. When I returned, Joshi was not reachable and I went to Balasaheb to explain him the situation. Balasaheb himself took the task of calling up voters.
"Later, we found out that I was pitted against Sharad Pawar, who was in Congress (S) and was on the verge of rejoining the Congress (I) and Manohar Joshi was in his panel. Balasaheb fired Joshi after the elections," Bhujbal recalled.