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By Vaibhav Purandare. I would first like to thank my publisher, Priya Kapoor, for the enthusiasm she showed for the project and for her efforts to make this book available to readers remarkably quickly. Priya also pushed me into putting in more biographical information on Bal Thackeray than I originally had; that has only made the book better. A big thank you also to her father, Pramod Kapoor, the guiding force behind Roli Books, who has also published my biography of Sachin Tendulkar.
Padma Rao Sundarji has been an outstanding editor. She went through the text in what must have been record time, and her intervention has made the text crisper and more readable. Dhume, opened up to me with candour. The debt of gratitude I owe to my parents, Jyotsna and Jagdish Purandare, is incalculable.
I would not like to repay it, because it is not money that you repay and forget. And thanks, as ever, to my brother Kunal, for his quiet and constant support. Finally, I would first like to thank Bal Thackeray himself, for being such an interesting subject, and for promptly agreeing to release the first edition of this book in The edition you hold in your hands is a revised and fully updated one.
All these people are responsible for the good things in this book. For any errors, I alone am accountable. Look after my son and grandson just as you looked after me all these years. This was part of their annual ritual, the coming-together of party faithfuls for the annual address by their Senapati or chief. Thackeray had addressed his first Dussehra rally in , the year in which the Shiv Sena was established, and had since held forth from the dais on this very ground every Dussehra, for 45 consecutive years, each time attracting a crowd of at least one lakh, a record of sorts.
He had been ailing for a while and had just recently spent nine days in hospital for a gastro-intestinal ailment.
Nevertheless, the Sainiks hoped he would come. The mood of the gathering turned sombre. They knew Balasaheb had been unwell, but this time, he looked utterly exhausted and even breathless. He admitted as much. When the Shiv Sainiks quietly filed out of the park after his minute talk, the overwhelming emotion was not about his politics but his health. Bal Thackeray had always been the picture of defiance: he was always thin but never reticent, he had breathed fire even in his 70s and 80s, urging his men to violent upheavals all the time.
And he abhorred showing any signs of weakness. Now seeing him so frail and helpless moved many of them to tears. The Sena was built too closely around the personality of Bal Thackeray. What would it be without him, they wondered, even as they realised that evening that he was ready to hang up his boots. On 17 November at pm, just as this book was going to press, news broke that Bal Keshav Thackeray, the founder of the Shiv Sena and one of the most controversial and charismatic figures of Indian politics, had died of cardio-respiratory arrest.
He had been suffering for months from ailments of the lungs and the pancreas. It was the end of an era in Maharashtra politics.
The turnout at his funeral was one of the largest seen in post-Independence India. The size of the crowd demonstrated just how big an imprint Thackeray left upon the state and the country.
In death, he turned out to be an even bigger crowd-puller. The procession stretched out for more than 2 km and many more people had lined up on the streets and on balconies along the route. Most Indian television channels focused almost exclusively on Bal Thackeray ever since the announcement of his death had been made, with many anchors airing their old interviews with him even though they had been among his strongest critics. Estimates of the crowd ranged from five lakh to a million, and Thackeray, in keeping with his reputation, brought the whole of Mumbai to a halt.
Apart from followers of the Sena, the mourners included thousands of ordinary citizens of Mumbai. A quiet and controlled sense of grief hung over the metropolis. When the procession reached Mahim dargah, 2 km from Matoshree, Muslim religious leaders offered a garlanded chaddar over the casket as a mark of respect; and there was a shower of flowers at four points on the route.
At the packed Shivaji Park, when police band struck up a tribute and a gun salute, there was complete silence. Sankaranarayanan, State Home Minister R. Industrial magnate Anil Ambani also attended the cremation. Uddhav Thackeray, along with his cousin Raj, elder brother Jaidev and son Aditya performs the last rites of his father, Bal Thackeray, in Mumbai on 18 November Bollywood did its bit.
The previous evening, Bachchan had tweeted with feeling about how Balasaheb had been a close friend and had supported him all through his career, coming to his rescue not only by dispatching a Sena ambulance to Mumbai airport after he was injured on the sets of Coolie in , but also by backing him during the Bofors controversy. Bachchan, who had rushed to visit Thackeray at his Matoshree residence when his condition turned critical on 14 November, also wrote about how, when he had visited the Thackeray home after his wedding to Jaya Bachchan, the Sena leader and his wife Meena-tai had welcomed her in exactly the way any daughter-in-law would be welcomed into a traditional Maharashtrian home.
No one can equal what he has done for Maharashtra. We needed him to be with us for many more years. They had learnt that people would be allowed to pay their last respects to the departed leader at the maidan, and had come in very early. Talk around the maidan was of how Mumbai had seldom seen anything like this before. Separated by politics, grief had brought them together. He is said to have then watched the rest of the funeral procession on television at his home, situated next to Shivaji Park, before turning up for the cremation in the evening.
Bal Thackeray had never held any official position. And yet, he was honoured with a ceremonial state funeral. Two days before his death, rumours about his deteriorating condition had spread like wildfire.
Mumbai had been on tenterhooks and had virtually shut down. Thousands of Shiv Sainiks had rushed to Matoshree to find out how he was, forcing the government to increase security and even call in the riot control police. And yet, there was no medical bulletin. Even the state government seemed to be in the dark. At the funeral, the Sainiks recalled the agony of that week when they had no reliable information, and wondered whether anyone had considered how distressed they were by the uncertainty.
Just a day after the funeral and the remarkable composure displayed by them, some Sainiks seemingly returned to their old selves. Their crime? Their arrest was promptly followed by the Sainiks vandalizing a clinic belonging to an uncle of one of the girls.
The social media erupted with outrage. Even as this controversy raged, another one arose over the demand made by the Shiv Sena to build a memorial for Bal Thackeray at the cremation spot. The Bombay High Court had to decide on whether the Park was a recreation ground or a public playground, for it is only on the latter that constructions are allowed.
To lakhs of Shiv Sainiks, all of this only served to reinforce the image of the departed leader. In life, he had been their hero. In their grief-stricken eyes, death lent Thackeray a near-mythical stature. His brother Srikant, with his involvement in the world of music and his knowledge of the arts, took care of feature-writing.
There is a theory propounded by some Mumbai journalists of that period that A. Nair, the then managing editor of Free Press Journal , was instrumental in the creation of Bal Thackeray, the fire-breathing Shiv Sena chief. Their story: When Thackeray was working as a staff cartoonist along with R.
Laxman at the daily, three of his cartoons had been chosen to be published in a world anthology of cartoons on Winston Churchill. But Nair stalled the handing over of the cheque — worth 70 pounds — sent by the publishers of the anthology for Thackeray, and he left dismayed.
Thackeray dismisses the story. Besides, I was not even aware if the cheque had come, so where does the question of complaining arise? Nair became managing editor of the paper. One day, a pencil-sketch of mine on M. Masani went to A. Nair for approval. He had a look at it and summoned me to his cabin. Do you know Mr M. I said, maybe. Then came the advice: Try and avoid drawing cartoons on Masani.
I came out of the cabin in disgust. Sometime later, when I drew a caricature of then Congress heavyweight S. Patil, I was summoned again. And was asked the same question: Do you know Mr S. They are my models, and I use them as and when I think fit.
I got the same suggestion — that I should avoid Mr S. Patil as far as possible. Nair had a long list of holy cows, Thackeray said, and would not allow him to poke fun at some powerful political figures in Maharashtra. I told him it was impossible for me to work with a person who had A.
Thackeray also points to the role of Hariharan in the Churchill cartoons episode. But he brusquely turned down the request.
This created a lot of rage in my mind. Later, one of my friends Nadkarni helped me send my cartoons.
Bal Thackeray and the rise of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra
By Vaibhav Purandare. I would first like to thank my publisher, Priya Kapoor, for the enthusiasm she showed for the project and for her efforts to make this book available to readers remarkably quickly. Priya also pushed me into putting in more biographical information on Bal Thackeray than I originally had; that has only made the book better. A big thank you also to her father, Pramod Kapoor, the guiding force behind Roli Books, who has also published my biography of Sachin Tendulkar. Padma Rao Sundarji has been an outstanding editor. She went through the text in what must have been record time, and her intervention has made the text crisper and more readable.
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Bal Thackeray & The Rise of The Shiv Sena
The Shiv Sena was born almost two decades after Independence. In the nearly two decades, a new generation had come of age in India. They were young people for whom the nationalist movement was already history and for whom Partition, rather than being a personally-felt calamity, meant the birth of a menacing neighbour. The project of nation-building now mattered less to them than more local concerns of jobs and lifestyle. More of them lived in cities, and more were educated and wanted work to match. But in , political parties hardly seemed to notice this.