Mumbai: Political stalwart Bal Thackeray evoked respect, awe and fear of thousands of people in Maharashtra for years. Such was his hold on the people that his crazy supporters were ever ready to lay down their lives for him.
Here are some interesting facts about this famous father of Maharashtra:
Although Thackeray never held an official post or ran for elective office, for years he was regarded as the most powerful man in Maharashtra. He was often referred to as the 'godfather' of Maharashtra or, as his legion of devout followers called him, Hindu Hriday Samrat (emperor of Hindu heart).
Such was Thackeray's power that when the Shiv Sena gained political control of Maharashtra, he got Bombay renamed Mumbai for the goddess Mumba -- the name by which the city is known in Marathi language.
When Shiv Sena chief was satirized by novelist Salman Rushdie in The Moor's Last Sigh (1995), the book was immediately bannned in the state.
Thackeray 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 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 Gujaratis, Marwaris, and southern Indians in Mumbai.
In 1966, he formed the Shiv Sena party to advocate more strongly the place of Maharashtrians in Mumbai's political and professional landscape. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Thackeray built the party by forming temporary alliances with nearly all of Maharashtra's political parties.
Born on January 23, 1926, Thackeray's cartoons were widely published in The Times of India in late 60s. He later quit the job and launched his cartoon weekly Marmik.
The elder Thackeray was also a 'social reformer' who campaigned against the Brahmins, whose dominance he contemptuously dismissed as bhikshuksahi - the rule by alms seekers.
Born a Thakre, it was Keshav's love for the Kolkata-born British author of that much-loved satirical novel Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray, which saw him anglicise the spelling of his surname to Thackeray.
Balasaheb had two qualities -- he understood the pulse of the people and had the flexibility to change his tactics as per their mood swings. His biggest achievement was that he had given wings to local and regional aspirations, which is difficult to be understood by outsiders.
(With inputs from Wikipedia, Britannica, Siffy News)