Senior Congress leader Narayan Rane on Sunday paid glowing tributes to Shiv Sena's founder, the late Bal Thackeray, saying only he had "recognised my true potential" and "reposed complete faith" in him.
Rane said: "Whatever I am today is only because of Balasaheb Thackeray. . .
He reposed complete faith in me, which no other leader will ever do. . .
It matters little now which party I belong to, since for me his stature will remain unchanged. "
He was speaking at a function here on the eve of his 65th birthday on Monday (April 10).
Recalling his close association with the late Sena supremo, Rane said that at one stage, he (Rane) aspired to be the powerful Mayor of Mumbai, the richest civic body in the country, but Thackeray had other plans.
The Sena supremo instead gave him a ticket for the assembly elections, which kickstarted his political career, culminating in the coveted job of Chief Minister in 1999 during the Shiv Sena - Bharatiya Janata Party government, followed by Leader of Opposition and other major responsibilities.
"The Narayan Rane visible today to the whole of Maharashtra is because of Balasaheb only.
Otherwise, this humble worker from the Konkan region would never have come into the limelight, " Rane said, crediting the late Sena chief for his meteoric political ascent.
"I have always done whatever I feel is right, without getting scared of anyone since I do it honestly.
Just as I used to speak out plainly before Balasaheb, I do the same with (Congress President) Sonia Gandhi and (Vice President) Rahul Gandhi, " he added.
In July 2005, Rane quit the Shiv Sena following major political differences and subsequently joined the Congress where he has been long considered a "Chief Minister - in - waiting".
Taking a swipe at his critics amid media speculation of his political moves, Rane said that "more than me, it is the media which appears more concerned about where I am going or not".
This was amid recent reports that Rane has reportedly invited BJP President Amit Shah for his grand 65th birthday celebrations scheduled in Mumbai on Monday.
Sunday's pre - birthday bash was attended by senior leaders from various parties, including Legislative Council Chairman Ramraje Naik - Nimbalkar, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari of the BJP, former Union Minister and Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde of the Congress, and former state Minister Jayant Patil of the Nationalist Congress Party.