Bal Keshav Thackeray was an Indian politician who founded the Shiv Sena, a right-wing Marathi ethnocentric party active mainly in the western India’s Maharashtra. His followers called him the Hindu Hriday Samraat (“Emperor of Hindu Hearts”)
Balasaheb began his professional career as a cartoonist with the English language daily The Free Press Journal in Mumbai, but left it in 1960 to form his own political weekly Marmik. His political philosophy was largely shaped by his father Sree Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, a leading figure in the Samyukta Maharashtra movement (United Maharashtra movement), which advocated the creation of a separate linguistic state of Maharashtra. Through Marmik, he campaigned against the growing influence of non-Marathis in Mumbai.] In 1966, Balasaheb formed the Shiv Sena party to advocate the place of Maharashtrians in Mumbai’s political and professional landscape. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Balasaheb built the party by forming temporary alliances with nearly all of Maharashtra’s political parties. Balasaheb was also the founder of the Marathi-language newspaper Saamana and the Hindi-language newspaper Dopahar ka saamana. He was the subject of numerous controversies. Upon his death, he was accorded a state funeralwith a large number of mourners present.
Balasaheb was born in the city of Pune on 23 January 1926 and was the son of Sree Keshav Sitaram Thackeray (also known as ‘Prabodhankar’ Thackeray). His family were Marathi Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhus. Sree Keshav Thackeray was a progressive social activist and writer who was involved with the Samyukta Maharashtra Chalwal (literally, United Maharashtra Movement) in the 1950s, arguing for Maharashtra to become an independent Marathi-speaking state with Mumbai as its capital. His father was said to have supported the use of strategic violence and the reason his father left the movement was his stance against communists. This is said to have inspired Balasaheb and his foundations for his party.
Balasaheb started his career as a cartoonist in the Free Press Journal in Mumbai. His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The Times of India. In 1960, he launched a cartoon weekly Marmik with his brother. He used it to campaign against the growing numbers and influence of non-Marathi people in Mumbai, targeting Gujaratis and South Indians. After Balasaheb’s differences with the Free Press Journal, he and four or five people, including George Fernandes, left the paper and started their own daily News Day. The paper survived for one or two months
He formed the Shiv Sena on 19 June 1966 with the intent of fighting for the rights of the natives of the state of Maharashtra. The Party grew in power when in the early 1970s he was joined by senior leaders such as Marathi Literature Historian Babasaheb Purandare, Chief Attorney for Trade Union of Maharashtra Madhav Mehere as a party Attorney and experienced Trade Union Chartered Accountant Madhav Deshpande to back him up for various aspects of the party operations. The early objective of the Shiv Sena was to ensure job security for Maharashtrians competing against immigrants from southern India, Gujaratis and Marwaris. In 1989, the Sena’s newspaper Saamna was launched.
Politically, the Shiv Sena was anti-communist and wrested control of trade unions in Mumbai from the Communist Party of India. It later allied itself with the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP). The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won the 1995 Maharashtra State Assembly elections and came to power. During the tenure of the government from 1995 to 1999, Thackeray declared himself to the ‘remote control’ chief minister.
Balasaheb believed that Hindus must be organised to struggle against those who oppose their identity and religion,especially in the public sector. Opposition leftist parties allege that the Shiv Sena has done little to solve the problem of unemployment facing a large proportion of Maharashtrian youth during its tenure, in contradiction to its ideological foundation of ‘sons of the soil.
Balasaheb was admitted to Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital on 25 July, 2012, after he complained of breathlessness. He was discharged once he recovered after treatment. However, by late October, his illness came was back to haunt him. He passed away soon after, on November 17, 2012, at 3:30 p.m.
Saheb,you rest in our hearts !