Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray dies
Sena chief Bal Thackeray died on Saturday after battling ailments for days, ending an era in Maharashtra and national politics in course of which many opposed to his functioning struggling to come to terms with his brand of firebrand nationalism. He was 86.
As the end came at around 3-30 pm and the news was announced in the evening by his doctors, lakhs of his followers, many of whom called him the King of Hindu Hearts, broke down and grieved for the man who founded Shiv Sena in 1966 to enforce the rights of Marathi people in Mumbai and who left an indelible impact on national political architecture with plain speaking and espousal of national pride.
The Sena patriarch died at his residence Matoshree in Bandra. He died after a respiratory arrest, the doctor said, urging reporters to not ask uncomfortable questions to the grieving family and respect privacy.
Thackeray is survived by his sons Jaidev and Uddhav, who is the executive president of the Shiv Sena. His political legacy is also carried forward by his nephew Raj Thackeray a few years back broke ranks with Shiv Sena and formed a separate party- Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
But the two cousins- Uddhav and Raj- were seen coming closer of late after some bitterness in the past years following the making of MNS.
Born on 1926, Thackeray had began his career as a cartoonist with the English language daily The Free Press Journal in Mumbai.
He later left it in 1960 to form his own political weekly Marmik. His political philosophy was largely shaped by his father Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, a leading figure in the Samyukta Maharashtra movement (United Maharashtra movement), which advocated the creation of a separate linguistic state of Maharashtra.
Through Marmik, he campaigned against the growing influence of Gujaratis, Marwaris, and southern Indians in India's financial capital Mumbai.
He founded Shiv Sena in June 1966 as an outcome of a movement in Mumbai demanding preferential treatment for Maharashtrians over migrants to the city.
But over years he became a power centre in Mumbai whom all communities began to fear or respect.
A heavy presence of police and rapid action force were already posted outside Thackeray's house, and other parts of the city fearing law and order problems following his death.
The Centre has provided additional security forces to Maharashtra to assist the local administration in maintaining law and order.
Sena leader Sanjay Raut urged everyone to maintain peace and restraint while welcoming all his followers across Maharashtra and the nation to join the condolence.
Political opposition Congress as well as Shiv Sena's key ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) condoled the death of Bal Thackeray on Saturday both recognizing his importance in Indian politics.
"This is a big jolt to Maharashtra and the nation and with his demise an era ended," said BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain.
"He lived like a tiger and consolidated his position in politics. He knew how to swim against the tide. Leaders like him are born rarely. His void cannot be filled. The whole nation is grieving. BJP pays its respect to the late leader," said Hussain.
BJP senior leader Sushma Swaraj tweeted "I am terribly pained to hear that the Lion is dead."
BJP president Nitin Gadkari said Bal Thackeray always spoke his mind and never took recourse to any deceit to express his political views.
Congress also issued a statement soon after the demise of Thackeray was announced.
"He had a big role in Maharashtra politics. We feel sad and we convey our heartfelt sorrow to the family and pray they can overcome the grief, said Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi.
Congress leader from Maharashtra Sanjay Nirupam said he can never forget the political guidance and always loved him for his convictions. "He lived by his convictions," said Nirupam.
Thackeray would be cremated at around 3 pm on Sunday.