2012 yearender: The year Maharashtra lost Bal Thackeray, Vilasrao Deshmukh

Vilasrao Bal

The death of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray went on to become the biggest news in Maharashtra's political arena in 2012, during which two-time chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh also passed away, the state secretariat caught fire and NCP strongman Ajit Pawar quit the Prithviraj Chavan-led ministry, only to rejoin it two months later.

Though he never held any office, Thackeray dominated the state's political landscape for over four decades and his death evoked extreme emotions across the socio-political spectrum. Soon there was talk about the estranged Thackeray cousins Raj and Uddhav burying the hatchet for the sake of the 'Marathi manoos'. The rumours were also there in July, when Raj met Uddhav, who was admitted to a hospital for angioplasty and drove him to his residence 'Matoshree' in Bandra.

However, the possibility of any "merger" look bleak now. As MNS chief, Raj has carved out his own identity, has 13 legislators and has built up the party apparatus. Uddhav has also proved his organisational skills in municipal elections in 2007 and 2012 and Assembly elections of 2009.

Three months before Thackeray's demise, the state lost Deshmukh, who began as an obscure village sarpanch to become a powerful chief minister and Union Minister by negotiating the choppy political waters of Maharashtra with elan.

In September, the state's politics was jolted by the resignation of Ajit Pawar as deputy chief minister in the wake of alleged irregularities in irrigation projects. Reinstated 72 days later, he found himself cornered by a combative Opposition in the winter session of the legislature.

The Opposition questioned the legal validity of Pawar's appointment, saying the post was not constitutional, and dubbed his taking oath as deputy chief minister sans any ministerial post as a violation of a high court order.

Ties between the Congress and NCP, already strained, plunged to a new low this year. The strain in ties was highlighted after resignation of Ajit Pawar in the wake of Chavan promising a white paper on the alleged irrigation scam.

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