Mumbai: Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray died in Mumbai today. He was 86.
Mr Thackeray had been unwell since July this year when he was admitted to Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital for breathlessness and constipation. He was released after a week in hospital, and was being nursed at his Bandra residence, Matoshree. The Sena chief was under constant medical supervision, with a team of doctors stationed at his home.
He is survived by his wife Mina and sons Jaidev and Uddhav, who is the executive president of the Shiv Sena, which Mr Thackeray founded in 1966.
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Video: Is Matoshree still Mumbai’s power centre?
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Video: Bal Thackeray better, says Shiv Sena; policemen keep vigil all night
Bal Thackeray better, says Shiv Sena; policemen keep vigil all night
Mr Thackeray’s health had reportedly deteriorated on Wednesday evening. At 2 am on Thursday, Udhav Thackeray emerged from the family home ‘Matoshree’ to tell party workers, “Since yesterday (Wednesday), Shiv Sena chief’s condition is stable. I had said yesterday and I will say again today (Thursday), I have not given up hope. You too must not give up hope because we all are fighting soldiers of a fighting leader. You all are praying for his recovery and I have full faith in your prayers.”
Security was tightened at Matoshree from Wednesday night, with the police putting up barricades to restrict movement around the area. Party workers began gathering at the Thackeray residence as news of the Sena chief spread. But by Thursday morning, Shiv Sena leaders said Bal Thackeray was better and was responding to medication.
Many VIPs visited Mr Thackeray home over the last two days. Actors Amitabh Bachchan, along with son Abhishek, and Sanjay Dutt had paid a visit late to Matoshree on Wednesday night.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and other politicians visited on Thursday. As did actors Salman Khan and Arbaaz Khan.
Born in 1926 to Keshav Thackeray, a social reformer, Bal Thackeray began his career as a cartoonist with the English daily, The Free Press Journal. He worked there for six years before starting his own journal Marmik – which means poignant – in 1960. The journal became a launch pad for his entry into politics in 1966, when on Dussehra, Mr Thackeray announced his party, the Shiv Sena, at a huge rally held at the Shivaji Park in Dadar in central Mumbai.
The primary political agenda of Mr Thackeray’s party was to attack what they called “outsiders” – then, Gujaratis and South Indians in Mumbai who Mr Thackeray accused of snatching jobs he claimed were meant for local Marathi-speaking people. The Sena countered widespread condemnation by calling it their fight for the sons-of the-soil or Marathi Manoos. Mr Thackeray would later similarly target north Indians.
Bal Thackeray soon built himself up to cult status. Unlike other khaki-clad leaders, he openly smoked pipes, wore sun-glasses and even drank beer – a sophisticated image that was in stark contrast to the growing hooliganism of his workers. Even his fiercest critics will not deny that Bal Thackeray was perhaps the most charismatic mass leader Maharashtra has ever seen. A master orator, his followers grew in numbers as he made vitriolic speeches pulling no punches when it came to attacking his political rivals. His supporters would wait all year long for the Sena’s annual Dussehra rally to hear “Balasaheb” speak. He cultivated a larger-than-life persona without once holding any public office.