There is a story which BJP leader, the late Pramod Mahajan would happily relate about his alliance talks with Shiv Sena chieftain Bal Thackeray. In 1990, when the two sides agreed to cement a state-wide alliance in the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha Elections for the first time, Thackeray just scribbled a number on a piece of paper and passed it onto Mahajan. “We fight 200 seats, you fight the rest,” Thackeray bluntly told the BJP leader. The deal was done in less than half an hour: the Sena would eventually fight 183 seats and the BJP 105 in the 288 member assembly.

‘Don’t insult me by calling me a politician. I am a political cartoonist!’ warned the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, lighting up a pipe, glass of white wine in hand, as our TV camera zoomed in on him with the Mumbai skyline in the background of the top floor of the Oberoi hotel. It was quintessential Thackeray, for whom image always mattered as much as reality in the creation of a larger-than-life-figure who was both feared and feted.

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