Bal Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief, is no more

Mumbai, Nov 17 (IANS) Shiv Sena chief Bal Keshav Thackeray, the militant flagbearer of Hindu nationalism and regional chauvinism who did not hesitate to resort to mob tactics to have his will enforced, died here Saturday at 3.30 p.m. He was 86.

His doctor, Jaleel Parker, made the announcement at 4.55 p.m. outside Matoshree, his residence, that was as much the city's landmark as a place of pilgrimage for millions of supporters throughout the state.

Thousands of them 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.

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.

His nephew, Raj Thackeray, once considered his political heir, broke away to form his own regional party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which often competed with Shiv Sena in espousing extreme rightwing views that championed local Marathi pride and exclusivism at the expense of other communities that resided in India's richest and most industrialised state.

The former cartoonist, who in the later years sported a stylish beard and wore twin bead necklaces in the manner of Hindu gurus, Thackeray ran his political party Shiv Sena (the army of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity), like a local militia. He leaves behind a legacy of anti−minority poison that has been scourge of Mumbai, the country's financial and entertainment capital.

Active till the end, Thackeray, who never hesitated to practice his particular brand of street politics, had just days ago on Nov 5 asked party activists "not to permit" the forthcoming cricket matches between India and Pakistan.

In a front−page appeal in the party mouthpiece Saamna, he had lashed out at Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde for his statement "to forget the past" and play cricket with Pakistan.

Thackeray was ailing for about two years and was under regular medical treatment at home. In the last week, his health deteriorated sharply.

According to party leaders, a virtual ICU had been recreated at Matoshri with all emergency equipment and medical and para−medical staff on duty round−the−clock.

His son Uddhav Thackeray was fielding scores of visitors, politicians and showbiz celebrities as this city remained on the edge for the last few days with heavy police deployment outside his residence and in trouble spots around the city.

Glamour world personalities like Amitabh Bachchan with his son Abhishek, Rishi Kapoor and brother Randhir, Salim Khan and son Salman Khan, Manoj Kumar, Madhur Bhandarkar and Bappi Lahiri visited Matoshri to enquire after Thackeray's health during the week.

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