I am making a list of politicians that I personally know. There are not as many as Delhi journalists know, or even our local Mantralaya reporters do, but all the same it is an impressive list.
Mr. Bal Thackeray I have known since the time he was a cartoonist at the ‘Fress Press' and I was a reporter. Had I know he was going to rise to his present height, I would have cultivated him better. He smoked cheap cigars, has the same dolorous expression that all cartoonists, with the exception of Mario Miranda, have, like sad clowns, and was generally friendly. He once did my sketch, which, after a while, I threw away along with a lot of other useless papers. I remember thinking at that time, if the sketch was by Laxman, I would have kept it. Famous last thoughts!
Chief minister Manohar Joshi I know since the time he was a corporator and later mayor, the same with his minister, Mr. Sudhir Joshi. Unlike in the state assembly, in the municipal corporation corporators and reporters share the same hall, canteen and lobby. You cannot help knowing one another. And they are relationships that last. Even today, when I meet the chief minister, I think of him as a corporator. However, I must add, I am most impressed with his progress as a politician, he is indeed an able administrator.
His predecessor, Mr. Sharad Pawar, he is both a fair weather and a wet weather friend (acquaintance would be more appropriate). Besides, I like a politician who drinks and parties, and occasionally puts on a suit, though he may look like a Baramati farmer dressed in a suit, for the march-past at the Olympic Games, where he is representing India in the wrestling event. I wonder how Mr. Deve Gowda would look in similar circumstances - a simple farmer in a suit!
And what applies to Mr. Pawar, applies to his friend, Mr. Suresh Kalmadi. Though as a politician, he is a lightweight - as yet.
On the national front, I know both Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. L.K. Advani. Though Mr. Vajpayee tends to forget me, and I hate reminding somebody that we have met before. I also know Professor Madhu Dandavate quite well. Note, I used the qualification, professor, because that is what he was at the Sidharth College when I first used to meet him, textbooks in hand, getting into a police van, having courted arrest in protest against some injustice or the other.
I have known Mr. George Fernandes in similar capacity, as leader of taxi drivers, municipal employees, BEST workers, canteen boys. I have also known him as minister for industries, but I did not like him much in that role. They say that power corrupts, but in George Fernandes's case, power did not corrupt, it changed him.
Finally, there is Mr. Ramakrishna Hegde. I am cultivating him right now. He could be the next prime minister.