Ahead of Lok Sabha Polls, Fadnavis Tries to Woo Bickering Ally With a Dose of Praise for Balasaheb

In one of the rare political events in Maharashtra, NCP president Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut were seen sharing dais during a promotional event of ‘Thackeray’ movie late Monday night. Not only did they share the dais, but also talked of the alliance on stage, where Fadnavis tried to woo back its alliance partner. He called himself an ardent admirer of Balasaheb Thackeray. All of this happened even as Uddhav Thackeray sat in the front row, raptly listening to the rapid question and answer session.

While Pawar restricted himself mostly to talking about the personal memories, and about Balasaheb’s friendship, he answered a political question nonetheless. When asked if both Balasaheb and he ever thought of turning the personal friendship into a political alliance, he replied in negative. “Neither he, nor I, ever thought of getting into an alliance,” he said, ending any future speculations about holding Sena’s hand.

But some of the most interesting conversations took place between Devendra Fadnavis and Sanjay Raut. On other occasions, Raut is seen spewing venom against the BJP government. But during this event, he took to the microphone to ask Fadnavis about the alliance. He also asked about ‘remote control’. During Balasaheb Thackeray’s time, he was referred to as the ‘remote control’. This was primarily because he did not hold any office, but ensured that all the decisions were taken as per his directions.

“The Shiv Sena and BJP forged an alliance in 1995. What was the difference between that alliance and this alliance?” Fadnavis was asked. To this, the CM answered, “We have reached so far today, only because of that alliance. There had troubles even then. But Pramod Mahajan, Gopinath Munde used to try to convince him. We overcame the troubles together. Whatever problems happened, Balasaheb used to large-heartedly take a decision. That is why the alliance used to continue. We too will find a solution. Why do you worry?”

The reply was also a message to Uddhav Thackeray to be ‘large-hearted’ while dealing with the old ally. When Sanjay Raut asked Fadnavis about his feelings on ‘remote control’, he said he would have liked it if the ‘remote control’ had been around today. Uddhav, on the other hand, said that the party never stopped anyone from coming in.

Calling himself an ardent admirer of Balasaheb Thackeray, Fadnavis recalled memories of Balasaheb’s rallies in Nagpur. “We admired Balasaheb Thackeray. He used to generate the kind of energy that was unparalleled. Irrespective of whether we lost or won, we used to always feel victorious when we attended his rallies in Nagpur. His speeches were magical. They were conversational. People used to feel that he was talking to them. It used to appeal to them. His style was unique. It was phenomenal. We will never see anything like it ever again. I was a very small worker then. I used to hang outside Matoshree. I barely ever got the opportunity to get close to him,” he said.

On the other hand, Sharad Pawar recalled personal memories of Balasaheb Thackeray. “I was his favourite subject for drawing cartoons. His cartoons used to be very hurtful. Since I was a bit healthy in my young days, he used to call me ‘a sack of flour’ in his cartoons,” he recalled, when he was asked why he used to refer to Balasaheb as the ‘dildaar enemy’. He also talked fondly of the time when Balasaheb Thackeray refused to field a candidate against Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, when she decided to fight the parliamentary elections for the first time. “Who lets anyone get elected unopposed? He sent her to Rajya Sabha unopposed,” he recalled. Sushilkumar Shinde too narrated a similar incident, recollecting tales of his friendship.

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