Mumbai: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray respected each other, due to which the alliance between the two parties had a smooth sailing, compared to the frosty ties now. “Even as prime minister, Vajpayee was in constant touch with Thackeray and always discussed various issues,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut said. Vajpayee, who passed away on Thursday following prolonged illness, shared a “relation of comfort and warmth” with Thackeray, Raut told PTI.
Senior journalist Ambarish Mishra said Thackeray had a “high regard” for Vajpayee. “During the joint rallies they addressed, Thackeray would always speak before Vajpayee,” he said. This was a departure from the usual scene at the Sena rallies where Thackeray was the last speaker, he added. “After the joint rallies at Shivaji Park, both leaders would chat and joke over a cup of tea at the Mayor’s Bungalow next to the rally ground.
Former Union minister Pramod Mahajan is considered the “architect” of the BJP’s first ever state-level alliance. “Differences between the saffron partners would always be resolved at the co-ordination committee meetings chaired by Thackeray and Mahajan,” Raut recalled. Mishra said Mahajan acted as a conduit between the Vajpayee and Thackeray and helped clear any misgivings between the two political partners. “Vajpayee would always tell Mahajan: Aap sambhal lo (you take care) and Mahajan would go to Matoshree, the Thackeray residence, to resolve the problems,” he said.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was strong as Vajpayee took everybody along, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said, adding the late BJP stalwart was “bereft of qualities like ego of power”. “My heart is not ready to accept that Atalji is no more with us. He is in our hearts. Qualities like ego due to power always remained far away from him. He was a simple man and an innocent politician,” he said. Though Vajpayee was a 3-time prime minister, he believed in taking “all small and big” allies of the NDA along, he said.