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Nov 17, 2012 at 08:08pm IST

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

Mumbai: Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray died on Saturday in Mumbai after prolonged illness. The 86-year-old Thackeray, who founded the Shiv Sena in 1966 to fight for the rights of Maharashtrians, was suffering from lungs and pancreatic ailments and had been put on life-support system for the last few days.

Announcing his death outside Thackeray residence 'Matoshree', the doctor said that Balasaheb breathed his last at 3.30 pm on Saturday.

ALSO SEE Thackeray's demise loss to Maharashtra, country: BJP

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.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena working president Uddhav Thackeray appealed to supporters to maintain calm. He asked the Shiv Sainiks to maintain law and order situation in the city.

This even as the Mumbai Police issued an advisory asking people to travel only in cases of emergency and appealed to them to maintain calm and peace. The police further asked people to avoid the Western Express Highway in Mumbai as certain traffic restrictions had been imposed, especially from Bandra to Dadar.

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.

BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar termed Thackeray's demise as the loss of a very great fighting leader. "We have lost a very great fighting leader and a great person...he was the tallest leader of our alliance in Maharashtra," he said.

The Congress also 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."

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."

Later, 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 strongman Narendra Modi said he was grieved to hear about the demise of Thackeray, calling the Shiv Sena chief full of life. The Gujarat Chief Minister said: "Full of life, Balasaheb Thackeray was an epitome of courage & valour. I am grieved to hear about his demise. May his soul rest in peace."

"Since the past few days, the entire nation was praying for him. He fought like a warrior, but in the end all of us had to lose him," said Modi, adding, "On a personal level, he was very affectionate towards me. I lost a guiding force."

Rajinikanth also 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."

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.

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."

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

Meanwhile, the Mumbai police said that over 20,000 police personnel had been deployed across the Maharashtra capital to avoid any law-and-order problem. Maharashtra has been put on high alert for the next 24 hours.

The body of the Shiv Sena founder would be kept at the Shivaji Park from 7 am on Sunday where the supporters could pay their last respect to him, said Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut while talking to mediapersons outside 'Matoshree'.

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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