‘He treated all party workers equal’

"It's the end of an era," said Gajanan Babar as he mourned the demise of Balasaheb Thackeray. Babar, a member of the 15th Lok Sabha, represented Maval constituency.

Babar had worked closely with Thackeray for Shiv Sena for over 35 years. He had gone to Mumbai to meet Balasaheb in September. "He wasn't keeping well when I visited him. He told me that he appreciated my work for Shiv Sena and that I must support Aditya and guide him..." he added.

Another party worker who was close to Thackeray is Shrishant Sutar. He remembers the late leader as a jovial and jolly person. "I travelled to far off places like Sangli, Satara, Solapur and more with Balasaheb during his rallies. He always maintained equality among his party workers. It didn't matter whether you came from a rich or a poverty stricken background, what mattered to him was the work you did for the party," said Sutar. His journey into politics started with Thackeray's help in 1966 when the first branch of the Shiv Sena political party was established in Pune.

"I was going to appear for my Matriculation. I was just a boy who wanted to contribute towards the development of the country...full of enthusiasm, but no direction. It was Balasaheb Thackeray who guided me and supported me through my endeavours and encouraged me in the field of politics," he added.

On hearing the news of Thackeray's ill health, Sutar rushed to Mumbai three days ago but wasn't allowed to meet him.

"The last time I met Balasaheb was six months ago. He asked me whether I wanted tea or coffee, and when I shyly refused he told the helper at his house to bring me tea, coffee, cold drink together so I could take my pick. He would always be in a jovial mood," said Sutar.

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