1995 was the year, when in one of the functions, he lifted me and took me in my arms and asked my parents what is his name to which they replied “Maulik”, he smiled, acknowledged and moved further after handing me back to my mother. I was 3 year old then.
17 years has passed after that, and I have grown up to see him, as a might, a power that has all the power to control the state of Maharashtra, even after not being in Chief Minister’s Chair.
Around 5:30pm today, when I was punishing my fingers by typing a format of some important certificate, I received this news which sank my heart and almost wet my eyes. The news of the death of 86 year old Shri Balasaheb Thackeray. Although it was much anticipated as the news kept flying since past 2-3 days, I had sincerely hoped that, just like all other battles, this will be also the one, where Thackerayji will achieve victory but the unforeseen happened.
For those who don’t know much about him, here is a small description of him — Before entering politics, Thackeray was a political cartoonist with English language daily The Free Press Journal in Mumbai, which he quit in 1960 to launch a cartoon weekly Marmik. His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The Times of India.
Thackeray launched Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna in 1989 where he would target his political opponents and the immigrants to Maharashtra in the most vitriolic language. Shiv Sena joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and won the 1995 Maharashtra State Assembly elections and came to power. For more than four decades, Thackeray ran the Sena with an iron fist. He was a bit like the Godfather of a political party, revered by his supporters and feared by his critics.
For the Shiv Sena, the 1992-93 riots confirmed Thackeray’s status as a charismatic larger than life figure. The Shiv Sena became a partner in power in Maharashtra for the first time in 1995. Typically, Thackeray chose to stay away from the chief minister’s chair, preferring to be the autocratic remote control, an individual feared by Mumbai’s rich and powerful.
It was 5:30 pm when the news flashed and 5:45pm when I was asked to go home, I stepped out of my office building and I witness a complete bandh. All shops, restaurants, food stalls, roadside vendors – everything was shut in a matter of seconds.
Someone rightly quoted on twitter, “The City that never sleeps, slept in a matter of seconds”. Such is the power of Balasahebji.
I’d pray that his soul rests in peace.
Footnote: Dear Maharashtra people, please don’t vandalize, hurt and damage anything at this tragic event. Let the peace prevail. Let us all mourn for his Greatness which is unfortunately lost and not upset his soul which has just reached heaven to witness the sufferance of his subjects.