Mumbai: Bal Thackeray is no more. The Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray passed away on Saturday after protracted illness at his home ‘Matoshree’ in suburban Mumbai. He was 86.
His demise was announced by his doctor Jaleel Parkar. “Bal Thackeray passed away at 3.33 pm. He had gone into cardiac arrest. We tried our best, but could not revive him despite our best efforts (sic),” Parkar said.
Thackeray had been suffering from respiratory problems and pancreatic disease.
Thousands of Shiv Sainiks had been standing in vigil outside his home in upscale Bandra East area of Mumbai for the last 72 hours as the news got out about Thackeray's failing health. The supporters who had converged outside ‘Matoshree’ broke into tears on hearing the news.
Though there was no panic or uncivil reaction to the demise in Mumbai, shops and establishments, restaurants and tea stalls shut down, cinemas cancelled shows and functions were called off or postponed.
Funeral at Shivaji Park
The mortal remains of Bal Thackeray will be consigned to the flames Sunday evening at Shivaji Park in central Mumbai. Shivaji Park is revered as 'Shiv Tirth' by Shiv Sainiks in Maharashtra.
"Thackeray's body is at present kept at Matoshri. Tomorrow morning, around 7.30 am, it will be taken to Shiv Sena Bhavan for party workers to pay their respects. From there, it will be taken to Shivaji Park where the public can pay their last respects from 9 am," party MP Sanjay Raut told mediapersons.
"The funeral would be held at Shivaji Park ground. We have received permission from the state government in this regard," Raut further said.
Heavy security in Mumbai
Keeping in mind a possible unrest in Mumbai, state government has deployed heavy security across city. In Mumbai alone, over 20,000 city police, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of Rapid Action Force have been deployed.
"The entire police force is on an alert in Maharashtra. Lakhs of people are expected to visit Mumbai to take a last glimpse of Thackeray," a senior police official at Maharashtra Police Headquarters said.
Shiv Sena, Police appeal for calm
Shiv Sena leaders have also appealed for calm following the death of their leader. Sanjay Raut said: "The party has appealed for calm in the city of Mumbai, which Balasaheb loved so dearly. We hope the Shiv Sainiks adhere to the party appeal."
Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh also appealed to people to remain calm. "I appeal to people to remain calm and maintain law and order. Citizens should step out of the houses only if it is urgent. There would be traffic restrictions, particularly in Bandra and Dadar areas," Singh added.
He is survived by his sons, political heir and Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and filmmaker Jaidev. A widower, Thackeray's wife Meena and his eldest son Bindhumadhav passed away in 1996.
Thackeray was ailing for about two years and was under regular medical treatment at home. In the last week, his health deteriorated sharply.
The passing away of 86-year-old ‘Balasaheb’, as Thackeray Senior was fondly called, has created a void that will be difficult to fill for the Shiv Sena, which has always revolved around him. To party workers he was more like the family patriarch and not just the founder of the Shiv Sena.
As much as he was revered and adored, he was prone to controversies that he kicked up with his provocative, at times vitriolic, statements meant to fire up Marathi nationalism and Hindu hard line politics.
Thackeray had been keeping unwell for some time and had been under the care of a team of doctors from the Leelavati Hospital.
At the Sena's Dussehra rally in Mumbai last month, he addressed party workers via a recorded video message, asking them to support his son Uddhav and grandson Aditya. “I have collapsed physically... I can't walk... I am tired,” he said.
Bal Thackeray, a former cartoonist, had founded the Shiv Sena in 1966 as a "sons of the soil" movement. The Shiv Sena later formed government in the state with the BJP from 1995 to 1999.
First Published: Saturday, November 17, 2012, 16:57