Ailing Thackeray misses annual rally



Mumbai: Ailing Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray on Wednesday did not attend his party's annual Dussehra rally but sought support for his son and grandson as he launched a broadside against Congress and the Gandhi family through a recorded message.

In an attack on Congress president Sonia Gandhi, he said the "gang of five" (Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka, Robert Vadra and her Political Secretary Ahmed Patel) should be "destroyed".

"Panch-kadi (gang of five) should be destroyed and thrown out of the country," he said.

The country has become "a nation of cheaters", he said, without elaborating.

Appealing the party cadres to stick with his son, Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray and Sena youth wing chief and grandson Aditya, the 86-year-old Sean patriarch said, "People should keep their loyalty intact (towards Shiv Sena)...You took care of me, now take care of Uddhav and Aditya. They have not been imposed on you. Shiv Sena is not like the Gandhi family."

His recorded message was screened at the Shivaji Park in Dadar, where he had addressed several rallies year after year in the past.

The Sena patriarch said that he could not address his party workers directly on Dussehra, as has been his custom for the past several decades, because he had "physically collapsed". "I am not even able to walk," he said. "I have to breathe hard while speaking."

"Despite my failing health, my heart is with you (Marathi-speakers and Shiv Sainiks). I have not given my heart to anybody...It is with you people," he said.

He asked party workers not to "sell" their vote. "There are some shameless people who sell their votes. People should not sell their votes for money."

Talking about his health, he said, "I cannot handle it now. I used to address four to five rallies in a day (at one time) but now that is not possible."

Thackeray also slammed his old friend and NCP chief Sharad Pawar for his remark that Mumbai is a multi-lingual city. "Shiv Sena has not abandoned the Marathi cause. It is our base," he asserted.

PTI