Saying that he had loss a "dear friend" in Bal Thackeray's death, Union Agriculture Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar today described the Shiv Sena supremo as a "magnanimous" leader who was ready "to pay any political price" for his stand.
"Fierce pride about Maharashtra, willingness to pay any price for the interest of Marathi language, Maharashtrians, but at the same time the readiness to contribute on Maharashtra's behalf for the sake of the country, these were the hallmarks of Balasaheb," Pawar told reporters while paying his tributes to Thackeray, leader of NCP's political foe Shiv Sena.
"Regarding issues of Mumbai, Marathis, we were sometimes at conflict. We were friends, but at such times he did not cut down on his trademark 'Thackeray' language while criticising us, and we too paid back," said Pawar.
"We had differences, but when there were national-level problems, he had the capability to take a generous stand. No other leader in the country had this power. He supported Emergency, saying the era of discipline was good, and did not field a single candidate in the elections that followed when (Congress leader) A R Antulay requested him."
Pawar also recalled that Thackeray had backed Pratibha Patil, a Congress candidate, for President's post, breaking ranks with NDA and this time around when he took Pranab Mukherjee to Thackeray's residence before the presidential election, the Sena supremo unequivocally said he would support Mukherjee because he was a cultured and experienced leader.
"He never bothered about others opposing this move. It was courageous," Pawar said.
Talking about the personal relations, Pawar reminisced that when NCP decided to field his daughter Supriya Sule for Rajya Sabha, he did not discuss it with Thackeray, as Sena-BJP had their own candidate.
"He called me....He used to call me 'Sharad-babu'. He said, 'Sharad-babu, why didn't you tell me? She (Supriya) had been coming to our house since she was six months old...She had played with my kids, had sat in my wife's arms. Now she is making her parliamentary debut, and you did not tell me. I did not like this at all."
"I said I did not tell you because Sena-BJP has their own candidate. He said: 'There would be no Sena-BJP candidate'.
"He was ready to pay the political price for this love.... We were lucky to have such a magnanimous friend," Pawar added.
Condoling Thackeray's death, Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel said "Maharashtra has lost one of its greatest and charismatic leaders. My prayers are with his bereaved family. May his soul rest in peace."