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Balasaheb: Reminiscing the leader of values

Shubham Sharma

The 23rd day of January marks another significant occasion in Indian political and social structure. The day rejoices the 95th birth anniversary of Bal Thackery, the prominent social activist and founder of Shiv Sena.

Various followers and party leaders offered their wishes to the departed soul.

Marathi Manoos and Shivsena

Balasaheb Keshav Thackeray was born in Pune. Born to a father who was a writer and social activist, Balasaheb was highly influenced by his father who was involved in Samyukta Maharashtra Chalwal, which was a movement for the demand of a separate state for Marathi population. Thackeray started his career as a cartoonist in Free Press Journal in the 1960s. However, he left the job and started another newspaper News Day with George Fernandes. However, the daily didn't survive for more than a year. Later, Thackery started another editorial Marmik. This was focussed on problems faced by the Marathi community due to external influx of Gujarati, North and South Indian people. The newspaper soon gained popularity and the concept of Marathi Manoos here began to rise.

Further in 1966, on 19 June he founded Shiv Sena. Named in the glory of the honoured king Shivaji Maharashtra, the party's primary motto was to develop a Maratha owned state and prevent influx. The very first rally on 30 October 1966, saw thousands of supporters in name of Marathi Asmita(pride). All these were later given name as Shivsaniks. The popularity of the party grew rapidly. It was the magic of controversial cartoon made in Marmik by Thackery that then defence minister Krishna Menon lost elections of 1967. Further, in 1968, the party made the opponents feel its support base by winning 42 seats in BMC elections. The party soon gave its first mayor to Bombay in 1971.

Moving towards Hindutva

As time evolved, the party and Thackery's desires rose. However, he never negotiated with his ethos and values developed. He expanded and focused his ideology towards Hindutva. He demanded India's secular term be removed and Hindutva to be declared as the official religion. Also, he was the admirer of Adolf Hitler. He liked his power of expression and ability to carry masses.

In 1989 on his birthday, he founded Samna, an editorial which is the party's mouthpiece and used to reflect the opinion of the party about various issues.

Though during an emergency, he openly supported Indira Gandhi, the then PM. However, this was seen as an attempt to prevent arrest.

Further, in 1992, he was accused as the leader of Bombay mass killings of Muslims after Babri Masjid demolition. He was the only leader who openly accepted that it was he and his Shivsaniks responsible for the demolition. It was due to Goddess Mumbadevi that he renamed Bombay as Mumbai in 1991 when the remote control of the government was in his hands. Further in 1996, when the terrorists openly challenged the pilgrims of Amarnath that anyone coming for pilgrimage will not go back alive. It was Thackery's tit-for-tat policy that he announced that he will not allow any of Haj flights to Mecca Madina if this is the case. That year, the Yatra occurred without any obstruction.

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The difficult times

Following the Hindutva ideology, his party joined hands with BJP in 1999. This coalition continued till 2019 before Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi evolved. The same year announced his debarment from involvement in elections for 6 years. Though, he never himself contested in elections. But, the decision also didn't allow him to participate as a voter.  But, his popularity didn't go down. However, some of his supporters split after split in the home. His nephew Raj Thackeray formed MNS in 2006 when his youngest son out of 3, Uddhav was crowned as next heir of the party. In 2011, Balasaheb took his last breath after a cardiac arrest.

Some unknown facts about Balasaheb

  • Though his original surname was Thakre, Balasaheb changed it to Thackeray on the name of  William Makepeace Thackeray whom he admired.
  • He never contested in elections and never been a part of active politics.
  • Though he was a Hindutva supporter, he never believed infancies. Once, he rejected Rs 22 crore donation for Sai Baba of Shirdi.
  • He loved warm beer and Havanna cigars. 
  • His last rites were telecasted on TV live, and his name was included in the list of obituaries though he was never an MP.
  • Many international and national film celebrities were his friends. When Amitabh Bachchan was injured in Coolie, it was Shivsena's ambulance that took him to hospital.  He also let Sanjay Dutt released from TADA charges. Even Michael Jackson himself came to meet him during India's visit.

Comments (3)

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