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INTERVIEW: Untold stories of Balasaheb by ex-Saamna editor

Bhaskar News   |  Nov 18, 2012, 04:31AM IST
Mumbai: Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray, who breathed his last on Saturday evening, was anti-establishment since beginning  reveals Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam who started his political career as Sena MP in Rajya Sabha.
 
Talking to Dainik Bhaskar's Mumbai Bureau Chief Indra Kumar Jain, Nirupam said Balasaheb's father Keshav Thackeray had instructed the Sena chief never to serve as a government servant. And perhaps, this was the reason that Balasaheb always kept on trying to bring a change in the system, said Nirupam who later joined Congress after disputes with the Shiv Sena on some issues.
 
There were differences over Balasaheb's approach to bring about a change in the system and therefore, there were lot many people who were in opposition with Balasaheb's ideology, Nirupam said.
 
"Generally, it is said that as a leader grows in age, the number of his youth admirers reduces. But this was not the case with Balasaheb. I believe his youth following grew with his age. After Balasaheb's health deteriorated, there were large number of youths among those who were praying for his speedy recovery. Balasaheb had a great impact on Mumbai youths. It was a charisma of his leadership," said Nirupam who has also served as editor of Shiv Sena mouthpiece 'Saamna'.
 
Talking about why he resigned as editor of Saamna, Nirupam said, "I did not join Saamna under any pressure and attraction. Shiv Sena had a plan to launch a Hindi news paper in line with Saamna. At that time, I along with Saamna Editor Sanjay Rawat first met Uddhav Thackeray and then Balasaheb."
 
Sharing the word they had exchanged in the meeting, Nirupam said, I will always remember the two things he had told me in that meeting. When I asked him that what would be the editorial policy of the upcoming Hindi daily, Balasaheb replied 'anything against the nation should not come out in my newspaper. The national interest should be paramount. Do not carry even my statement if I have spoken against the interest of the country.'"
 
"Secondly, he told me that an editor should live like fire but this fire should not be misused. Always work in the interest of poor people and downtrodden section of the society," Nirupam recalled.
 
He said he always kept in mind these two teachings of Balasaheb while working with Saamna. 
 
According to Nirupam, Balasaheb never cared about rules and constitution. "Two incidents happened during my tenure in Saamna and I was in complete disagreement with the Shiv Sena ideology regarding those incidents," said Nirupam.
 
"In the first incident, leading Maharshtra English daily Mid-Day had launched a movement against Balasaheb after the 1993 Mumbai riots. Angry with a series of stories published against him in the English daily, Balasaheb called the then Mid Day Editor Kulkarni and threatened him that 'I will turn Mid-Day into Mid Night if the daily does not stop crticising him with regard to the riots'. After this phone call, Mid-Day stopped publishing anti-Balasaheb story," said Nirupam.
 
"In the second incident took place Balasaheb had to go to Lucknow after a court there summoned him in connection with a Babari mosque-related case. Thousands of people gathered in court premises to take a glmpse of Balasaheb, who had become very popular. When he came out of court room after hearing, some people asked him when he will visit the city next time. He answered ’first demolish Babri mosque, then I will come here’," said Nirupam.
 
Nirupam said that a person who believes in a constitutional structure will never issue a statement like this. But Balasahed was like this, said the Congress leader.
 
Balasaheb had an exceptional oratory skill. I am fortunate enough to work with him and listen his speeches. He had a deep sense of public sentiments. Although for the past 25-30 years, he was not in direct touch of general people.
 
The Shiv Sena chief was aware of the people's angst against him. Nirupam quoted an incident to justify this claim. He said, "Once, I was sitting with Balasaheb. Vijay J Darda, chairman and editor-in-chief of the Marathi newspaper Lokmat, came to meet the Shiv Sena supremo and invited him to attend a party Darda was going to host to mark 25 years of his friendship with a person. In response to the invitation, Balasaheb asked Darda, 'Do you Marwaris even celebrate anniversary of your friendship? I have no such friend. But yes, I can celebrate 25th anniversary of enmity.'" 
 
Nirupam said Balasaheb's ideology was always in controversy. "Whether we agree or not, but he had commitment to the Marathi pride. After targetting South Indians living in Mumbai, he protested against Gujaratis and Hindi-speaking people. Then he used the slogan of Hindutva for the first time in the 1987 by-election. Following this, he came into contacts with Lal Krishna Advani and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
Once Time magazine had published one his interviews in which he had said "kick them out" for Muslims. When he faced a legal action, he protected himself saying that he was talking about anti-national Muslims, said Nirupam.
 
"I am of the view that a person who respects rule of law cannot make such inflammatory remarks. Altogether, Balasaheb's journey of life fluctuated around rebellion, resentment and hatred," Nirupam concluded.
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