The Shiv Sena supremo Bal alias Balasaheb Keshav Thackeray, an architect of Marathi Manoos movement which subsequently took a political shape and also an ardent advocate of Hindutva, died at 86 today. His death comes at a time when the embattled Marathi Manoos is divided between the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navniraman Sena, the party formed by Thackeray’s estranged nephew Raj Thackeray in 2006. The death is also a body blow to Hindutva preachers who were eagerly looking at him ahead of 2014 elections. Thackeray, who was known as Hindu Hriday Samraat (Emperor or Hindu Hearts), was also for many a leader, a man who was not ashamed of airing his views against the so-called rapid Islamisation of India and appeasement politics.
Thackeray is survived by his son and the party executive president Uddhav and estranged son Jaidev, three daughters in law and grandsons and daughters.
Thackeray, an admirer of Hitler, was the man of many parts - a learned and deeply religious person, a firebrand leader, a forceful orator and above all, a man of the masses. His indomitable fighting spirit will be long remembered by a large number of his supporters, friends in the BJP and even by his critics.
A cartoonist of world class Thackeray began his professional career with the English daily but left it in 1960 to start his own political weekly Marmik. His father Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, a leading figure in the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, was his idol responsible for his political philosophy. It came quite handy for Thackeray to run a campaign against the increasing influence of Gujaratis, Marwaris and southern Indians in Mumbai. It was Thackeray, who came into spotlight, by signing a tune of “Pungi Bajao Lungi Hatao.”
In 1966, Thackeray formed the Shiv Sena party to pursue Me Marathi cause and to strengthen the place of Maharashtrians in Mumbai’s political and professional landscape. Thackeray is the founder of the Marathi-language newspaper Saamana and the Hindi-language newspaper Dophar Ka Saamana.
In the initial years, Shiv Sena positioned itself as anti communist and a succeeded in taking the control of trade unions especially in Mumbai from the communist hold. The ruling Congress party got a friend in Sena to take on communists. What was Communists’ loss was Sena’s gain as it was successfully managed to enter into Mumbai civic body. Congress party’s plan to make Mumbai a union territory was strongly opposed by Sena.
It later allied itself with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Hindutva which both parties believed in. The BJP-Shiv Sena combine won the 1995 assembly elections and came to power. During the tenure of the government from 1995 to 1999, Thackeray was nicknamed remote control since he played a major role in government policies and decisions from behind the scenes.
On July 28, 1999 Bal Thackeray was banned from voting and contesting in any election for six years from December 11, 1999 till December 10, 2005 on the recommendations of the Election Commission. After the six-year voting ban on Bal Thackeray was lifted in 2005, he voted for the first time in the 2006 BMC elections.
After the demolition of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, it was Thackeray who openly congratulated Shiv Sainiks for their heroic job. During the subsequent two bouts of communal riots, which took place in Mumbai, the party hit the street to protect Hindus in general. He has since made more inflammatory statements regarding Muslims, and reiterated his desire for Hindus to unite across linguistic barriers and to see 'a Hindustan for Hindus' and to 'bring Islam in this country down to its knees.
Thackeray has been strong opponent of organizing cricket match between India and Pakistan. In 1990s his party members damaged the cricket team of Mumbai stadium and the opposition still continues.
On the auspicious Dussera rally, Thackeray, in an emotionally choaked voice in a pre recorded added, spoke about his ill health but expressed his resolve to fight for the interest of Marathi Manoos reiterating that it was party’s base.