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Bal Thackeray: From Cartoonist to mascot of Marathi pride Last Updated : 18 Nov 2012 10:51:07 AM IST Bal Thackeray: From Cartoonist to mascot of Marathi pride
From drawing cartoons with potent messages to etching for himself a larger-than-life image on Maharashtra's political landscape, Bal Thackeray was the mascot of Marathi pride and Hindutva who aroused extreme emotions but could never be ignored.
But the key question arises following the death of Balasaheb Thackeray is Will the Shiv Sena in Maharastra still be a force to reckon with after his time?
His death leaves the western state of Maharashtra and its capital , Mumbai – without one of its most Popular figures and was the mascot of Marathi pride, who more than once expressed his admiration for the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.
Born on January 23, 1926 to a social activist father who played a key role in the movement to establish the Marathi-speaking state of Maharashtra, “The Tiger” as he was known began life as a political cartoonist.
A rabble-rouser, the 86-year-old Shiv Sena supremo was idolised with almost God-like devotion by his frenzied sainiks and demonised in equal measure by detractors.The maverick ways of Thackeray--Maharashtra's tallest leader--always led both his friends and rivals to underestimate him politically as he called the shots in state politics, often playing the role of a kingmaker without himself becoming the king. For some, the Tiger of Maharashtra was also a cultural icon.
Thackeray, a fiery orator who could bring the country's bustling financial capital to a standstill with a wave of his finger, started out as a cartoonist alongside R K Laxman at the English daily Free Press Journal in the late 1950s. But he soon charted a new course when he launched a cartoon weekly 'Marmik' in 1960.
The weekly contained satirical pieces that fired up the "Marathi manoos" to fight for their identity and existence in a city witnessing growing influx of migrants.Thackeray's pro-Marathi plank, that propounded 'Maharashtra for Maharashtrians', saw his party breaking ranks with his long-standing ideological ally BJP in 2007 presidential election when he chose to back UPA's presidential nominee, Pratibha Patil, who is a Maharashtrian.
He even criticised cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar in 2009 for remarking that Mumbai belonged to the whole of India.Thackeray took to politics as fish to water as he launched Shiv Sena on June 19, 1966 to champion the cause of Marathi 'sons-of-the-soil', seeking job security for Maharashtrians, who were then facing stiff competition from Gujaratis and south Indians.
The frail-looking Thackeray, through his fiery oratory skills, caught the imagination of young Maharashtrians which many felt bordered on jingoism and chauvinism.
Born on January 23, 1926, he was the second of four children of Kesav Sitaram Thackeray, a writer who actively participated in the 'Samyukta Maharashtra Andolan' -- the movement for creation of a separate state for Marathi-speaking people with Bombay as its capital.
Admirer of Adolf Hitler
The self-confessed admirer of Adolf Hitler soon raised a veritable army of street fighters whom he would use to obtain jobs for the Maharashtrian youth in numerous textile and other industrial units dotting Bombay, earning the epithet of 'Hindu Hriday Samrat' (emperor of Hindu hearts), in the process.
Though Thackeray never contested an election himself, he sowed the seeds of a full-fledged party when his Shiv Sainiks began controlling trade unions in a variety of industries, including Bollywood.
Shiv Sena grew fast into a well-oiled political machine and gained control over the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in the 1980s, riding the pro-Marathi plank.
Thackeray's biggest moment in politics came when he struck an alliance with BJP in 1995 and formed its government in the state for the first time after tempering his strident pro-Marathi ideology and embracing a broader Hindu nationalist agenda. He ran this government by what he himself called a "remote control". However, he never occupied the post of chief minister.
Many believe the communal riots in the aftermath of the 1993 Mumbai blasts in which Shiv Sainiks were alleged to have played the pivotal role, polarised Hindu votes to the advantage of the Sena-BJP combine.
A judicial commission, headed by Justice B N Srikrishna,which had probed the riots, accused Thackeray of sparking anti-Muslim violence in Mumbai, which claimed over 1,000 lives.
Justice Srikrishna described Thackeray as a "veteran general who commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims" during the riots. A firm believer in aphorism that familiarity breeds disregard, Thackeray meticulously created a larger-than-life image of himself, eschewing mingling with supporters and making up for that by giving grand 'darshan' from the balcony of his heavily-guarded Bandra home Matoshree and giving rabble-rousing speeches at his famous Dussehra rallies.
Pakistan and Muslims were often the target of vitriolic attacks by Thackeray, who once likened Muslims to "cancer".
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