Sometime in 1989-90, when Bal Thackeray’s rivalry with Sharad Pawar, the then Maharashtra chief minister, was at its peak, at a rally in the Konkan region he recounted Pawar’s “bad habits” to those gathered in large numbers.
“Pawar is a boozer,’’ he thundered. “Every evening he sits with his capitalist cronies and guzzles imported Scotch through the night. I, for my part, am a nationalist. I drink only Indian. Beer. Two bottles of warm beer are good for my tummy problems. Pawar can only end up with a liver problem!’’
Within minutes of his rally’s end, two village teens were at the local pharmacy. “We want beer, warm beer,’’ one of them told the pharmacist, who directed them to the liquor store.
The youths were outraged. “We don’t want liquor! We want beer. For stomachache.’’
“You don’t get beer at a medicine store,’’ the pharmacist said. “Oh, yes, you do!’’ replied one of the boys, “Balasaheb just said so. He has warm beer for his stomachache. I have one, too. I want beer!’’
The pharmacist prescribed something better than beer for a stomachache, but they left unhappy.
However, after telling the world he preferred warm Indian beer each evening, one day he was seen sipping French wine at Matoshree. When this reporter asked him about the change of preference, he said, “I have been told French red wine is good for the heart. You journalists always complain I am heartless. So I am getting myself a heart!’”