Saturday, 17 November 2012

Friend and foe , Bal Thackeray Play Man

Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, veteran trade union leader George Fernandes and Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar were arch-rivals for several years. However, the 1982 textile workers' strike united them against trade union leader Datta Samant. The trio addressed a large public rally at the historic Shivaji Park,

where they said a strike would have an adverse impact on the textile industry and ruin the metropolis's economy. The trio wanted to stop Samant from gaining followers. They did not succeed, as a record number of textile workers joined the strike. But the strike was unsuccessful.

In subsequent years, while Thackeray's and Pawar's personal relations peaked, they became the biggest rivals on the political front. Veteran journalist Vasant Deshpande said, "They never mixed personal relations and politics. As a result, even today Pawar has very cordial relations with the Thackeray family." For over four-anda-half decades, relations between Pawar and the Thackeray family, particularly Thackeray Sr, soured on several occasions due to political issues, but both these stalwarts ensured there was no strain on their personal relations. The Sena's mouthpiece, Saamna, wrote very critically about Pawar several times, but he never reacted too sharply to the stringent observations.

Another veteran journalist, Dinkar Raikar, agreed that Pawar and Thackeray had a soft corner for each other. "In 1972, Pawar was the minister of state for home and the Shiv Sena had just begun to spread its tentacles in the metropolis. There were moments of tension, but Pawar always dealt with the situation diplomatically. They were political rivals, but their personal equations were like family members," Raikar said.

Maharashtra witnessed a public spat between Pawar and Thackeray on at least three occasions. First, when Chhagan Bhujbal, as a Sena legislator , launched a frontal attack on Pawar over an alleged plot scam. Second, when Bhujbal engineered a split in the Shiv Sena. Thirdly, when Bhujbal, as home minister in the Congress-NCP government, got Thackeray arrested in a decade-old case.

In 1989, when Pawar was the Congress chief minister, Bhujbal, the lone Sena legislator in the assembly, single-handedly launched a campaign against Pawar over an alleged plot scam in the metropolis. "We were expecting that the senior Thackeray would step in and halt the campaign against Pawar, but Thackeray did not come to the rescue of Pawar. As a result, Pawar's image was massively damaged," said a senior Shiv Sena leader.

Shockingly, a year later, Bhujbal led the biggest-ever split in the Sena, when a record 14 legislators quit to join the Congress. "It was one of the biggestever setbacks for Thackeray, who expected that Pawar would halt the split. But this time there was no response from Pawar," the Sena leader said.

Later in 2000, when Bhujbal was state home minister and deputy chief minister, he dug out a decade-old case under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code — creating communal enmity — and ensured that Thackeray was arrested . The Sena made an all-out effort to thwart Bhujbal's attempt, but Pawar did not step in. As a result, the senior Thackeray had to face an embarrassing arrest. A month ago, Bhujbal told a public meeting that he had not sought the permission of Pawar or then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to arrest Thackeray.

Thackeray drafted an ambitious plan to dislodge the Congress government in 1990, but did not succeed. However, prior to the 1995 assembly polls, Thackeray, accompanied by BJP leader Gopinath Munde and Sena leader Manohar Joshi, launched a statewide campaign against Pawar, saying it was high time that the people of Maharashtra dislodged the Pawar-led Congress government. "It was a setback for Pawar when the saffron combine assumed power. Till then it was assumed that Pawar was the undisputed leader of Maharashtra . A question mark then came over Pawar's leadership," a senior Congress minister said.

No comments:

Post a Comment