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The Indian Herald

The Indian Herald
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November 18, 2012

Cartoonist-turned-controversial Maharashtra politician Bal Thackeray dies: End of Era of hate speech, communal and sectarian politics?

Who after Bal Thackeray, What about his legacy!
Controversial Maharashtra politician Bal Thackeray whose party workers were indicted in cases of street violence and riots, passed away in Mumbai on Saturday.

Thackeray was 86. Though vilified for stoking communal and sectarian feelings, he is eulogized by large number of Maharashtrians, because he fashioned himself as their saviour.

His son-of-soil campaign instilled a feeling self-respect among Marathis. But a self-confessed fan of Adolf Hitler, Bal Thackeray evoked extreme reactions.

Bal Thackeray had a clout which was unmatched by any other politician in his lifetime. He had formed Shiv Sena, a right-wing militant party in 1966. First, he campaigned against the clout of Gujaratis in Bombay. Then his attention turned to South Indians, whose restaurants were targeted. He opposed jobs to 'Madrasis' in the cosmopolitan.

The 'Hindu Hriday Samrat', as he was called by his admirers, had no love lost for Communists. The Congress in initial years didn't pay much attention to Shiv Sena's rise. But it later became a major force in Maharashtra, due to support of unemployed Marathi youths.

Shiv Sena cadre was involved in political assassination like the murder of CPI leader Krishna Desai in 1970. Later the party turned aggressively anti-Muslim. Its role in Bhiwandi riots was found in inquiry reports. In horrific Mumbai riots in 1992-93, Shiv Sena leader was indicted.

Thackeray openly claimed that his boys were involved in destruction of Babri Masjid and took pride over it. He could get away with extremist statements and articles in his mouthpiece Saamna. Though he said that he would form Hindu suicide squads, never an action was taken against him.

Earlier, he had opposed reservations for SCs, STs and backwards in jobs. He had also openly supported Emergency when Indira Gandhi was prime minister. Though his party attacked Biharis, recently it was found that his ancestors hailed from Bihar and he was also an immigrant. But such things never deterred him.

Celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan visited his house when he was battling for life and the legendary Lata Mangeshkar termed him as a 'father figure' upon his death. Many other prominent personalities also paid him homage. 

With his death, the era of his brand of politics might end. But the legacy has been passed over to his son Uddhav and nephew Raj Thackeray, who leads MNS. Bal Thackeray had once said that 'Ek bihari, sau bimari', with regard to Bihari immigrants.

The Shiv Sena and MSN have both taken strong anti-immigrant stands. The violence against people from UP-Bihar have caused turmoil across Maharashtra earlier. However, after him, the scale of hate speech may come down. Though a divisive figure, the tiger would be remembered for his roar for years to come.

TIH Bureau


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