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Posted on Nov 17, 10:21PM | IBNS
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday called off its dinner with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh following the death of ally Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray.
Condoling the death of the right-wing Hindu nationalist leader, the BJP said that his demise had left a "gaping void" 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.
Thackeray's death also cancelled the dinner for which Prime Minister Singh had invited BJP leaders on Saturday.
Party patriarch L.K. Advani and leaders of Opposition in the two houses - Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were expected to come.
On Friday, the PM had hosted a dinner for allies as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) sought to sketch out a strategy to face the strong opposition onslaught it expects to face in the soon-to-begin winter session of the Parliament.
Led by the BJP, the Opposition is expected to renew its attack on the Congress-led UPA coalition government at the Centre over recent economic reforms, including the decision to relax foreign direct investment (FDI) rules in India's retail sector.
At Saturday's dinner, the Prime Minister was likely to request that a repeat of the last Parliament session, when House proceedings had were stalled almost everyday over unrelenting Opposition filibustering, is avoided.
However, the dinner was called off after Shiv Sena supremo and champion of Maratha pride Balasaheb Thackeray died on Saturday afternoon, doctors attending on him said. He was 86.
The Sena patriarch died at around 3-30 pm at their residence Matoshree.
He died after a respiratory arrest, the doctor said, urging reporters to not ask uncomfortable questions to the grieving family and respect privacy.
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.