Pandurang Savlaram Vadke, popularly known as Kaka Vadke, was among the first Shiv Sainiks in Pune and his association with Thackeray dates back to days when Shiv Sena was yet to be established. Vadke had been Shiv Sena’s Pune face for over three decades — till his death in 2000.
According to his family, though Vadke was the Sena office-bearer in the city, the relationship between him and Balasaheb was beyond that of a party worker and its chief.
Snehalata, Vadke’s wife, reminisces, “Their relationship was not limited to the political needs. It was a more profound one. There was a brotherly love. Whenever we went to Mumbai we used to visit Balasaheb. Whenever he came to Pune he would visit us. He was fond of non-vegetarian food. While in city he would convey to my husband that he would drop by to have food. He liked biryani and fish. As he was averse to spicy food, we had to be careful while cooking.”
She adds: “Before the Sena was established, he used to reside in a much smaller bungalow in Dadar, where we had gone quite a few times. Then the Sena chief moved in to his present residence in Kalanagar, which was much smaller in the beginning and was later renovated and expanded to the bungalow which is now called Matoshree.”
The first time Balasaheb visited their residence in Shimpi Ali in Kasba Peth was in 1964 when Vadke had invited him to inaugurate a Ganpati Exhibition organised by his trust. “He came and had food here,” says Snehalata, pointing to a space in her living room.
The affection between the two families has continued in the next generations. While Raj used to accompany Balasaheb whenever he visited Vadke residence, Uddhav also makes it a point to drop by if he is in the city.
“Balasaheb’s last visit to the family was when Kaka Saheb passed away in 2000. For the last few years, Balsasaheb had also not been keeping well. Besides, there were security issues, which was why his visit to the family never materialised. Many a times Uddhav and Raj have come on their own. Soon after Minatai’s (Thackeray’s wife) demise, Uddhav was in the city. He told Kaka that he would come to have biryani with the family. So the bond of love continues,” said Senhalata.
Bhalchandra Vadke, Kakasaheb’s nephew, adds, “While leaving, Uddhav touched Kaka’s feet. Kaka tried to stop him, arguing that Uddhav was a big leader while he was an ordinary party worker. But Uddhav said he called him Kaka (uncle) and thus had every right to touch his feet.”