Hindu right-wing Marathi ethnocentric party Shiv Sena on Monday (Jan 23) observed the 91st birth anniversary of its founder and one of the most powerful politicians of Maharashtra Balasaheb Keshav Thackeray, more popularly called Bal Thackeray.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid homage to the leader earlier this morning.
“Balasaheb Thackeray personified courage & emerged as a voice for the aspirations of many people. Tributes to him on his birth anniversary,” Modi tweeted.
Here are 10 important facts about Bal Thackeray:
1. In 2006, Bal Thackeray objected to getting a Rs 22-crore throne for the Sai Baba idol at Shirdi, saying the money should instead be spent on the poor farmers of Maharashtra who were committing suicides.
To this, when Marathi daily Lokmat pointed out that Thackeray himself sits on a silver throne, the Shiv Sena sent the wooden chair with silver coating to the newspaper office and demanded a receipt for that.
2. In 1995, Bal Thackeray, while giving it out to the Congress at a state election rally, said if his rival party had Dawood Ibrahim, the the Shiv Sena also had Arun Gawli.
Pertinently, both are dreaded gangsters of different religions who rose to “fame” from Mumbai city. Under the political patronage of Senas, Gawli later floated his own party Akhil Bharatiya Sena and even fought the Mumbai municipal polls.
3. Bal Thackeray always maintained an anti-Congress stand. However, he was all praises for Congress leader and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her efforts in supporting Bangladesh get its freedom. He even called her the best PM.
4. Bal Thackeray never spared anyone who spoke against Maharashtra or the Marathi people. Even cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, who is a Maharashtrian himself, faced his wrath for allegedly saying Mumbai belongs to all Indians.
5. It is said that his father Keshav Thackeray actually spelt his surname as “Thakre”. But Balasaheb changed the spelling to “Thackeray” as he was a great admirer of 19th century English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.
6. Bal Thackeray was an accomplished political cartoonist. In the early 1980s, when Bollywood superstar survived a near-death accident on the sets of his film “Coolie” and was recovering at hospital, the Shiv Sena chief visited him and presented him with a cartoon of Yamraj, the God of Death, that read: “Yamraj defeated”.
7. A die-hard Marathi at heart, Balasaheb was against South Indians migrating to Mumbai and doing business in the city. But did not let politics interfere with his art. Pertinently, earlier in life, he had done illustrations for a Malayalam book titled “Nātōtikkappalil nālumāsam”.
8. The Hindutva leader had always openly expressed his admiration for German dictator and Nazi Party founder Adolf Hitler.
9. British Indian author Salman Rushdie made a caricature of Bal Thackeray in his novel “The Moor’s Last Sigh” (1995). The megalomaniac character was called Raman Fielding.
10. Bal Thackeray loved his wife Mina Thackeray even after her death in 1995. In an interview to IBN Lokmat, he showed a locket with her picture that he always wore even after her demise.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.