About Bal Thackeray
Bal Keshav Thackeray, an Indian politician, was the founder member of a
right-wing ethnocentric Marathi party called the Shiv Sena. The party’s activities are mainly concentrated in the state of Maharashtra in the western part of India. Bal Thackeray opposed the migration and increasing influence of the non-Marathis in the city of Mumbai. He campaigned against it through his journal Marmik, which was a cartoon weekly. He plunged into politics to further this motto and formed a new party in 1966 called the Shiv Sena. The objective of the party initially was to make sure that Maharashtrians get job security in the state as they faced competition from the south Indian, Marwari and Gujarati immigrants. Temporary alliances with almost all the Maharashtrian political parties were made during late 1960s to early 1970s.
Although there were numerous controversies linking him, he was highly respected and adored by many Maharashtrians and is remembered as a courageous man. He is fondly called the 'Hindu Hriday Samraat' by his followers, which means "Emperor of the Hearts of the Hindus". A state funeral was accorded to him that saw mourners in large numbers. Bal Keshav Thackeray is the one such non-member of the Parliament who is present in the list of obituaries.
Personal background of Bal Thackeray
Bal Keshav Thackeray was born on 23 January 1926 in Pune, Maharashtra to Keshav Sitaram Thackeray. He hailed from a family of Marathi Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhus. Keshav Thackeray was a writer, social activist and a prominent figure in the Samyukta Maharashtra Chalwal, a movement of the 1950s that advocated for a separate state for the Marathi-speaking population. Keshav Thackeray later left the movement because of his stand against the communists. Bal Thackeray’s philosophy in politics was highly motivated and influenced by his father Keshav Sitaram Thackeray. Bal Thackeray married Meena Thackeray, who was his constant source of strength. His three sons were Bindumadhav, Jaidev and Uddhav. On 20 April 1996, Bal Thackeray’s eldest son Bindumadhav expired in a road accident and in September 1996, his wife Meena died of a heart attack.
Bal Thackeray's professional background before entering politics
His career started as a cartoonist in Mumbai with The Free Press Journal, an English daily. The Sunday edition of The Times of India also featured his cartoons. He left the job in 1960 and founded Marmik, a new political weekly with his brother. Bal Thackeray and a few others including George Fernandes formed a news daily called News Day, but it survived only for a couple of months. Dopahar ka Saamana, a Hindi newspaper, and Saamana, a Marathi newspaper, were also founded by Thackeray.
Bal Thackeray's Political Journey
- On 19 June 1966, Bal Thackeray formed the right-wing ethnocentric Marathi party called the Shiv Sena with the objective to stand for the rights of the Marathis of Maharashtra.
- The power of the party increased in the early 1970s when senior leaders such as Babasaheb Purandare, historian of Marathi literature; Madhav Mehere , Chief Attorney for Trade Union of Maharashtra; and Madhav Deshpande, Trade Union Chartered Accountant, joined the party.
- The Shiv Sena wrenched control of Mumbai trade unions from the Communist Party of India.
- Saamna, Shiv Sena’s own newspaper, was launched in 1989.
- The Srikrishna Commission Report, an inquiry ordered by the Indian government, blamed him and his party for stirring up violence against the Muslims during the Mumbai riots in 1992-93.
- The stand undertaken by Thackeray after the riots were seen as anti-Muslim.
- The party’s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party led to a win in the Maharashtra State Assembly elections held in 1995, which saw the alliance coming into power.
- During the tenure of the government from 1995 to 1999, Bal Keshav Thackeray described himself as the ‘remote control’.
- He was criticised for praising Adolf Hitler, but he later said that he does not admire Hitler.
- In a 1998 interview Bal Thackeray said that his viewpoint on the issues that his party had with the Muslims has changed on different subjects, especially regarding the Ram Janmabhoomi--Babri Mosque issue.
- As recommended by the Election Commission, he was banned from contesting or even voting in any election for a term of six years starting from 11 December 1999 because of his involvement in seeking votes in the name of religion.
- Bal Thackeray expressed regret when the Shiv Sainiks violently attacked a private party in Mumbai during its celebration on Valentine Day on 14 February 2006.
- In 2006, Raj Thackeray, his nephew moved out of Shiv Sena and formed a new party called the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
- This happened after Bal Thackeray announced his retirement from active politics and his son Uddhav Thackeray became the new leader of the party.
- Thackeray commented on the Bihari MPs that they were "spitting in the same plate from which they ate" after they criticised the Maharashtrians. This was the aftermath of the 2008 incident which saw agitations against North Indian and Biharis coming to Maharashtra to appear for the civil service examinations of the Indian Railways.
Bal Thackeray's death
On 17 November 2012 Bal Thackeray succumbed to death due to a cardiac arrest. The state of Maharashtra came under high alert, with the day witnessing the otherwise busy city of Mumbai coming to an absolute halt as the news of his death spread. Shops and other commercial hubs were closed immediately. The Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh appealed to maintain peace and calm in the state. The Mumbai police, the Reserve Police Force of the state, and the Rapid Action Forces were posted. Eminent politicians expressed their condolences.
Mourners were present in large numbers, estimated at 1-1.5 million. Bal Thackeray was bestowed with a state funeral at the Shivaji Park, which became the second such public funeral in Mumbai, the first one being that of Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1920. The otherwise rare 21-gun salute was given to honour Bal Thackeray. His son Uddhav Thackeray lit the pyre. The funeral ceremony was broadcast live by television channels.
Last Updated on Feb 19, 2020