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'Tiger' Thackeray no more, Maharashtra mourns

Last updated on: November 17, 2012 22:33 IST

'Tiger' Thackeray no more, Maharashtra mourns

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Bal Thackeray, a maverick politician who roused emotions on Marathi pride and catapulted Shiv Sena to power in Maharashtra in the 1990s, died in Mumbai on Saturday after having been critically ill for the past few days.

The 86-year-old cartoonist turned politician, known for his strong views and speaking his mind, sometimes bordering on the offensive, breathed his last at 3.30 pm at his residence 'Matoshree' in suburban Bandra.

"He had suffered a cardiac arrest. We could not revive him despite our best efforts. He breathed his last at around 3:30 pm," Dr Jalil Parkar, who treated the Sena supremo, told reporters after emerging from Thackeray residence on Saturday evening.

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Image: Thackeray, chief of Shiv Sena, waves towards the media as he arrives to cast his vote at a polling centre in Mumbai
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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Thackeray is survived by sons Jaidev and Uddhav, who is the executive president of the party. His nephew Raj had split from the family and found his own Maharashtra Navnirman Sena over six years ago following a succession row.

A rabble rouser, who started out as a cartoonist alongside R K Laxman in the Free Press Journal in the 1950s, founded the Shiv Sena in 1966 on the plank of job security for the Marathi manoos (sons of the soil) which translated into attacks on South Indians whom he had blamed for taking away the opportunities from the locals.

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Image: An archival photograph of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray
Photographs: Courtesy: Shiv Sena website

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Later, his politics also centred around Hindu identity and anti-Congressism and was also unrestrained in his Muslim bashing.

Always the kingmaker, Thackeray was largely instrumental in ending the Congress hegemony in Maharashtra when the two parties stormed to power in 1994 and they shared power even at the Centre between 1998 and 2004. He never occupied any office.

Thackeray, who had relegated himself to the background after anointing Uddhav as his successor, had been suffering from respiratory problems and pancreatic disease.

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Image: An archival photograph of Bal Thackeray addressing Shiv Sena supporters in Mumbai
Photographs: Courtesy: Shiv Sena website

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Senior party leaders, Raj Thackeray along with family members and other political leaders rushed to 'Matoshree'.

Meanwhile, security has been stepped up in the metropolis in the wake of Thackeray's death.

President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the death of Thackeray. Singh cancelled a dinner for BJP leaders scheduled today ahead of Parliament session following Sushma Swaraj's request.

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Image: Bal Thackeray with son Uddhav Thackeray at a function in Mumbai earlier this year
Photographs: Sahil Salve

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Interestingly, notwithstanding his strong anti-Congress stand, Thackeray extended his party's support to Pratibha Patil, also from Maharashtra, in the Presidential election in 2006 and later to Mukerjee in this year's election.

Despite the setback in his health in the last few days, Sena leaders and the party mouthpiece 'Saamna' kept maintaining that he was improving. Eminent personalities from politics, Bollywood and industry have been thronging his residence ever since.

Media persons and Sena workers stationed outside 'Matoshree' realised around 4 pm that there was some development as several senior leaders from Sena, BJP and other parties started arriving and police were seen to have become more alert.

As the speculation rose, Shiv Sena leaders Sanjay Raut, Diwakar Raote accompanied by Dr Jalil Parkar, who had been treating Thackeray for the last three years, came out around 5 pm to announce Thackeray's demise.

On hearing the news, a frenzied mob of Shiv sainiks tried to enter 'Matoshree' by raising slogans "Bal Thackeray Amar Rahe' while police tried to prevent them from going inside and enhanced security allover.

Many of them in the crowd broke down on hearing the news about their leader's death.

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Image: Bal Thackeray is seen with cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, singer Lata Mangeshkar and actor Amitab Bachchan during a function in Mumbai to collect funds for 2001 earthquake in Bhuj
Photographs: Savita Kirloskar/Reuters

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Thackeray's health kept fluctuating since last few days with his son Uddhav appealing to Sainiks "to maintain calm and pray for his father" on Thursday night.

Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut appealed to people to maintain peace and harmony.

Thackeray was being treated by doctors from Lilavati Hospital. No medical bulletin was issued, but Sena leaders briefed the media daily.

The condition Sena patriarch worsened on Wednesday night when he had to be put on life support. He was taken off life support later after showing signs of improvement.

 


Image: Bal Thackeray with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressing a campaign rally in Mumbai ahead of the 2004 elections.
Photographs: Sherwin Crasto/Reuters

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