Long before Sudheendra Kulkarni, there were the likes of Nikhil Wagle and your humble columnist. In 1991, the Shiv Sena dug up the Wankhede cricket pitch to protest against an India-Pakistan series. I wrote an article condemning the act in the strongest possible terms. A black flag demonstration was staged outside The Times of India office, where I worked in Mumbai, I was verbally abused, but fortunately allowed to leave the premises unhurt.

Political judgements based on opinion polls are hazardous at the best of times, but when there is a five-cornered fight like in Maharashtra, pollsters are often whistling in the dark. There were almost 50 constituencies in Maharashtra in 2009 where the margin was less than 5,000 votes, making any conclusive poll prediction a nightmare. And yet, let me stick my neck out on my home state: The BJP will be almost certainly the single-largest party and, in fact, should get a clear majority.

‘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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