Bal Thackeray, kind-hearted, but difficult at times

Gopinath Munde

India, Nov. 18 -- It was Balasaheb who made the alliance between the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party possible, and then kept it intact till date.

We came together some 27 years ago when Balasaheb had become the undisputed champion of Hindutva. He became Hinduhridayasamrat (the king of Hindu hearts) and never looked back.

We fought together several elections, but what everyone remembers most is the 1995 Assembly elections, in which he launched a scathing attack on the Congress and brought home the handsome victory.

He was kind-hearted yet hard to deal with at times. He adored Pramod Mahajan (BJP leader, who was very close to Thackeray) like his own son. He loved me as much for three reasons - I had come from a common family; I never hid what I didn't like and I never spoke behind his back.

Balasaheb's words were like arrows that would never return once shot-off from a bow.

I must say that he not just led the Sena, but the Sena-BJP alliance in the state as well. He would speak his mind and decide issues on the basis of merit. He was a friend, philosopher and guide to all of us. Today we have lost a father figure. This loss is huge.

It was because of his able leadership that the alliance survived all odds and the two parties were glued together. His firm stand would give us strength and hope to do better in crisis.

And, now we have a goal to achieve - we have a dream of his to fulfill. We must bring the Sena-BJP back to power in the state because Balasaheb always wanted us to topple the tyrannical Congress-NCP-led government. I hope the people who loved him will help us in realising his long-cherished dream.

Gopinath Munde, now deputy leader of BJP in Lok Sabha, was a key leader when the Sena and BJP came together in Maharashtra and fought elections under Thackeray's leadership in 1995

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.