A political saga of a cartoonist

November 15, 2012 12:52
A political saga of a cartoonist

A man who created history in the Indian political panorama is in a critical condition battling with life. Bal Keshav Thackeray also known as Bal Thackeray was not just a politician but the founder of Shiv Sena party (a right wing Hindu nationalist party). Born to Keshav Sitaram Thackeray on 23 January 1926 in Pune, Bal Thackeray took his father as the role model and escalated to supreme heights in the political arena.  His father was then a social activist and an eminent writer who predominantly questioned the caste biased system with his writings.

Early life and career:



After completion of eduction, Bal Thackeray-who followed the foot steps of his father-approached the editorial world and started off his career as a cartoonist with Free Press Journal in Mumbai. Some of his popular cartoons even got published in Times of India news daily. After working with this paper as a cartoonist for quite sometime, Bal Thackeray started his own cartoon weekly (along with his brother) named  Marmik.  He even founded Marati newspaper Saamna and Hindi daily Dophar Ka Saamna.

Personal life:




Bal Thackeray married Meena Thackeray. She was said to be the force and strength of Bal Thackeray. Thackeray couple gave birth to Bindumadhav Thackeray, Jaidev Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray. In 2006, he lost his eldest son Bindumadhav in a road accident and after a couple of months his wife succumbed to heart attack.


Controversial figure and formation of party:




Bal Thackeray became a controversial figure with the launch of Marmil itself. This cartoon weekly targetted the non Marati speaking migration to Mumbai and even against the increasing number of south Indian labourers in Mumbai. The sources said that it primarily targetted Gujaratis.


In order to take forward his ideas in a more efficient manner, Bal Thackeray decided to plunge into politics. In 1989, Bal Thackeray formed Shiv Sena party with a motto to safeguard the interests of Maharashtrians by way of securing jobs to locals by putting a check to immigrations from south India and Gujarat.


Shiva Sena tagged itself as anti-communist party with even its supremo Bal Thackeray stating that he admired Nazi rules Adolf Hitler (who was also anti-communist). Bal Thackeray, however, made it clear that his admiration for Hitler was only because of his great art. It is known that Hitler was a professional artist before he joined the army and rose to the post of head of the state.




Shiv Sena later teamed up with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over Hindu-nationalism. Notably, both these parties went into elections together in 1995 and came to power. Bal Thackeray was alleged to have played the role of a remote control during the tenure of the government between 1995 to 1999. He was even alleged to have made some key decision without coming into the picture.


Bal Thackeray banned to vote:



The Election Commission of India banned Bal Thackeray from voting and contesting in elections for a period of six years starting from  December 1999 to December 2005. The commission took this decision after a case was filed against Bal Thackeray by Maharashtra Government for allegedly appeal to people for voting on caste and communal basis. After a gap of six years, Bal Thackeray voted again in 2006 BMC elections. In 2009 general elections, there was no ban on Bal Thackeray but then he didn't vote due to his illness.

Controversial statements:



  • For asking people to vote on the basis of communities and castes in 1999
  • For appealing his followers for forming into suicide squads in order to counter cross-border terrorism
  • Supporting LTTE, which fought for a Tamil eelam (country) from a part of Sri Lanka

He further made controversial statements on a particular group. Although Shiv Sena denied that it was against a particular group, many believed that the party was anti to some group. However, the party reportedly clarified that they were against those who don't respect the law of the land.

Anti-Valentine's Day:



Bal Thackeray was against the celebration of Valentine's Day. He termed Valentine's Day as a-Bharatiya (un-India) and said it was indecent.  These boycotts made Shiv Sena supporters attack the stalls, which did business based on Valentine's Day.

On February 14, 2006 a group of Shiv Sena members attacked women who were celebrating Valentine's Day in Mumbai. Bal Thackeray apologized over the incident. He said he instructed his followers not to attack women.

Raj Thackeray's differences with Shiv Sena:



Bal Thackeray's nephew, Raj Thackeray formed Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which has ideals more or less like Shiv Sena. Raj Thackeray work with Shiv Sena for a couple of years and moved out from the party in 2006 alleging that Shiv Sena was run by petty clerks. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is specifically against immigration to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Other references:






Bal Thackeray was referred in a non-fiction novel written by Suketu Mehta. In his book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, the author interviews Balasaheb Thackeray.

Ram Gopal Varma's movie Sarkar was said to have close resemblance to Bal Thackeray and his family.

Shiv Sena focusses on national issues:

Shiv Sena-after fighting against the immigration into Mumbai-slowly focussed on national issues. Recently 86-year-old Bal Thackeray allegedly appealed to the people of Maharashtra to overthrow Congress at the state and the centre since the governments ignored inflation, frequent power cuts and even corruption.

 Health issues:



Bal Thackeray developed difficulty in breathing following which he was admitted to Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai on July 25, 2012. The reports indicated that he's stopped taking food and he was on life support.

Bal Thackeray might have tagged himself as a controversial politician but for many Maharashtrians, but for many he's a man of courage and self-esteem.

(AW Phani)

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