Mumbai: Leaders cutting across political parties paid rich tributes to Bal Thackeray last evening, with BJP veteran LK Advani describing the late Shiv Sena chief as "a rare, unique and original" leader.
"I have seen a lot of leaders. I am in politics since the first general elections in 1952. But I have not seen anyone like Balasaheb. He was a rare, unique and original leader," Advani said.
The former Deputy Prime Minister was speaking at an all-party condolence meeting at the Shanmukhananda Hall here. Prominent figures from politics, industry and some old associates of Thackeray spoke about the late leader.
Advani lauded the way the Thackeray family was united during the recent tragic development and hoped that it would continue to remain so in the future.
Thackeray was not in government but he influenced governance, Advani said, adding "I have seen a lot of leaders but never anyone with so many qualities. The void caused by his demise would be difficult to fill."
BJP president Nitin Gadkari said Thackeray's life was stormy and we learnt various things from him. "We had the same respect for Balasaheb as we have for (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee."
Maharashtra Home Minister and NCP leader R R Patil pointed out that Thackeray, breaking ranks with ally BJP, had announced support to UPA Presidential nominee Pratibha Patil in 2007 as she hailed from the state, even before he and the then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had broached the subject during their visit to Sena chief's residence.
Industrialist Rahul Bajaj said his family enjoyed warm ties with the Thackeray clan.
Referring to Thackeray being labelled a "dictator", Bajaj said, "if he was a dictator, then we need more such dictators in politics."
Congress leader and Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Harshvardhan Patil also spoke on the occasion.
Patil, an independent MLA in 1990s and a minister in the then Shiv Sena-BJP government in the state, recalled the guidance he got from Thackeray.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray was not present at the condolence meeting.