They may no longer be with the Shiv Sena, but both Narayan Rane and Chhagan Bhujbal owe their political careers to the organisation that Bal Thackeray led for over four decades till his death on November 17.
At a condolence meeting organised by Mantralaya and the Vidhimandal Vartahar Sangha yesterday, the two leaders recalled their old ties with the Shiv Sena and the days they spent in the party.
Both Rane and Bhujbal said the Shiv Sena gave them their identity in politics. They said they and even other leaders who like them had once been in the Shiv Sena, such as Raj Thackeray, would not have risen in state politics if there had been no Bal Thackeray.
“I simply would have been nowhere had the Shiv Sena and Balasaheb Thackeray not been there,” Rane said, even as he made it clear that the Shiv Sena was his past and the Congress his future.
Rane, who is yet to get an appointment with the departed leader’s son Uddhav for a visit to Matoshree — the Thackeray family home in Bandra — to offer his condolences, said Thackeray was never a politician, but a dashing leader who always helped the poor and needy whenever they required help.
Rane quit the Shiv Sena in 2005 over differences with Uddhav, the executive president of the party, but remained in touch with Bal Thackeray.
“He called me up twice after (my) quitting the party to ask about my well-being,” the Industries Minister said. “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 called me up to tell me not to have hard feelings about Uddhav despite our political paths being separate.”
Terming Thackeray’s death an irreparable loss to the state, Bhujbal said the late leader created history by running an organisation for 45 years.
“All of us — Rane, Ganesh Naik and I — could become ministers in the present government because of our career growth in the Shiv Sena,” he said. Recalling the time he quit the Shiv Sena in 1991, Bhujbal said he experienced both love and hatred from the party.
“Nagpur was deliberately chosen to announce my decision to quit the party. Had it been done in Mumbai, I would not have been allowed to come out of my home!” said the PWD Minister. “Even though I quit the Sena, my affection and respect for the late Thackeray never waned.”
The occasion also saw some senior journalists sharing their experiences of covering the Shiv Sena as a political party and talking about their personal rapport with the departed leader.