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Bal Thackeray dead, Mumbai jittery, Shiv Sena, police appeal for calm

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Nov 18, 2012 at 07:31am IST

Mumbai: The demise of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray at the age of 86 after prolonged illness on Saturday sent a wave of shock and grief among his supporters in Maharashtra and outside, and political leaders cutting across the party lines. The man who lorded over Mumbai for over four decades passed away after suffering from lungs and pancreatic ailments.

As the news of the Shiv Sena founder breathing his last at 3.30 pm on Saturday spread, Mumbai slowly came to a standstill as shops in several areas shut down while people were stranded on roads across the Maharashtra capital as the taxis and auto rickshaws also went off road. Also, cinema house owners in the city decided to keep the theatres closed on Saturday night and Sunday for security reasons. Film screenings in city theatres were cancelled on Saturday as soon as the news of Sena chief's demise spread.

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The cable operators across the city also started showing just news channels on their networks. But amidst the deserted roads in the city and the fear of violence, the Gurudwaras all over Mumbai were thrown open to everyone as they announced that Langars and stayovers would be provided till the situation got normal, and people also launched a document on Google and Twitter to help each other reach their homes.

With the situation turning grim, the Mumbai police quickly issued an advisory asking people to stay at their homes and travel only in emergency situations. The advisory said, "Citizens should only step out of houses only is there is an emergency. Avoid Western Express Highway. There are certain restrictions on traffic movements in the city especially from Bandra to Dadar. Only essential travel/commute is advised. An appeal is made to people to maintain calm and peace."

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Shiv Sena working president and Bal Thackeray's son Uddhav Thackeray also appealed to the supporters to maintain calm and peace. He asked the Shiv Sainiks to maintain law-and-order situation in Mumbai as well as across Maharashtra.

Earlier, reacting to the news of the Shiv Sena founder's demise, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj posted a tweet saying: "I am terribly pained to hear that the Lion is dead." She further announced the cancellation of the dinner of BJP leaders with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, scheduled for Saturday night.

ALSO SEE Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray dies at 86 in Mumbai after prolonged illness

BJP president Nitin Gadkari said Bal Thackeray was the head of the Shiv Sena-BJP family, and held the same place as former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Addressing mediapersons, Gadkari said, "He was like family to me. His demise is a setback for all of us, he kept fighting for people all his life."

"His demise is a big personal loss to me. Under his guidance, we used to win elections...his demise is a big loss to both the Shiv Sena and the BJP," said Gadkari.

BJP president Nitin Gadkari said Bal Thackeray was the head of the Shiv Sena-BJP family, and held the same place as former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Addressing mediapersons, Gadkari said, "He was like family to me. His demise is a setback for all of us, he kept fighting for people all his life."

"His demise is a big personal loss to me. Under his guidance, we used to win elections...his demise is a big loss to both the Shiv Sena and the BJP," said Gadkari.

Paying his last respect to the Maharashtra strongman, veteran BJP leader LK Advani called his demise the departure of a political giant, saying Bal Thackeray's demise had "left a gaping void in the country's politics which would not be easy to fill".

He further said, "Uncompromising in his patriotism, he possessed remarkable qualities of leadership and abundance of attributes of head and heart which made him command great respect among all those who came in his contact…it is rare that I have seen in these 65 years of independent India, a political leader who has left such a deep imprint on the country's events as Bal Thackeray."

Keeping the political differences aside, leaders from other parties, including the Congress, also expressed their grief at the demise of the Shiv Sena founder.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his condolence over Thackeray's demise, saying the Shiv Sena chief always strived to inculcate a sense of pride in his people.

The Prime Minister issued a statement saying, "For him the interests of Maharashtra were particularly important and he always strived to inculcate a sense of pride in its people. He founded the Shiv Sena and built the party into a formidable force in the State politics with his strong leadership."

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi also expressed her condolences to Bal Thackeray. The Congress further recalled the important role played by Balasaheb in the politics of Maharashtra, expressing grief over the demise of the politician.

Reacting to the news, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, "Bal Thackeray had an important role to play in Maharashtra politics. Shiv Sena was known after his name...we pray for his family and supporters. May the almighty give them the power to pass through this tough phase."

Congress leader Milind Deora also expressed grief over Thackeray's demise as he tweeted: "Ideologies & politics aside, Balasaheb was unique & his influence on Maharashtra politics is undeniable. Often imitated but never duplicated."

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said he was saddened by the news. Addressing medispersons, he said, "We had close relations. In politics, he always used to fight me, criticise me. When I was the Chief Minister, whenever I gave good suggestions, he used to support me."

"I have been seeing him since the past 40 years. He rose like a storm, gave service to Maharashtra all his life…I pay tribute to him," said Shinde.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, who was a friend of Bal Thackeray, remembered him as a man who always kept his words. He said, "During the presidential elections, I went with Pranab Mukherjee to meet him. He said he believed Pranab has the power to protect the country and he will support him. And he kept his word."

"I had gone to attend his first public meeting at Azad Maidan...saw a miracle. Balasaheb was never worried about political implications, if he made up his mind, he never took a step backwards," he further said.

DMK chief and former Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi said he loved Thackeray's affection and simplicity when he met him in Mumbai.

Also paying their tributes and expressing grief over the sad demise of Bal Thackeray were people from the entertainment and the sports fraternity. From the likes of Dilip Kumar to Lata Mangeshkar to Sachin Tendulkar said they were saddened by the news.

Superstar Rajinikanth expressed his grief saying Bal Thackeray "was a great leader and a father figure to many, including me...this is a great loss to all." He further said, "My heartfelt condolences to all his family members and followers all over the world. My prayers for his soul to rest in peace at the feet of the lord."

Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar called it a very sad moment, saying Bal Thackeray was like a father figure to her. She said, "Had recently met him on November 4, he was very critical…he was talking to me. He was like a father figure to me."

Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar also said he was saddened to hear about Thackeray's demise, saying the Shiv Sena chief would always be remembered and missed. He said, "Really sad to hear about Balasaheb's demise. His contribution to Maharashtra was immense. It's a terrible loss and he will always be remembered and missed. Unfortunately I am in Ahmedabad as I would have liked to pay my last respects personally. My condolences to his family. May God rest his soul in peace."

Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan said, "Each day he continued his struggle with a grit that was baffling even for the doctors on hand…And just a couple of hours back, as I stand next to his still, peaceful, saffron draped body, it is difficult to imagine...that he has left us!"

The body of Bal Thackeray will be taken by a vehicle from his residence 'Matoshree' to Sena Bhawan at 8 am, and will be kept their for an hour for supporters to pay their last tributes. Following this, the body will be kept at the Shivaji Park from 9 am to 5 pm for people to pay their last respects. The cremation will be done at 6 pm at the Shivaji Park itself.

Thackeray started his politics with anti-South Indian agitation to protect the jobs of locals. Thackeray later embraced Hindutva and tied up with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Before entering politics, Thackeray was a political cartoonist with English language daily The Free Press Journal in Mumbai, which he quit in 1960 to launch a cartoon weekly Marmik. His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The Times of India.

Thackeray launched Shiv Sena's mouthpiece Saamna in 1989 where he would target his political opponents and the immigrants to Maharashtra in the most vitriolic language. Shiv Sena joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and won the 1995 Maharashtra State Assembly elections and came to power. For more than four decades, Thackeray ran the Sena with an iron fist. He was a bit like the Godfather of a political party, revered by his supporters and feared by his critics.

For the Shiv Sena, the 1992-93 riots confirmed Thackeray's status as a charismatic larger than life figure. The Shiv Sena became a partner in power in Maharashtra for the first time in 1995. Typically, Thackeray chose to stay away from the chief minister's chair, preferring to be the autocratic remote control, an individual feared by Mumbai's rich and powerful.

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