The “tiger” of Maharashtra is still there in the hearts of millions of people of Maharashtra. No one dare say that Balasaheb is no more. His firing leadership is still hot in Marathi politics. Yes Balasaheb was a leader of the masses and his fight against injustice, love for the nation and his daring action against the traitors, pseudo-secularists were commendable. After Mahatma Gandhi, it was Balasaheb who received such titanic heartfelt respect after his death. Leaders across the parties paid tribute to the Hindu Hriday Samrat. India is proud to have such a great patriot who had no hidden agenda for politics and who never cared for vote-banks, instead his personality made him a mass leader and thus born a new national movement in Maharashtra through Shiv Sena. His reign of terror was meant for the anti-nationals, not against the non-Marathi people. But unfortunately some of his misguided followers created vandalism in Mumbai and that was a black spot on the Balasaheb’s movement. But India needs a leader like Balasaheb to check the hooligans of Indian politics. A man of conviction, a man of vision, a great leader, and the king of Hindu hearts, Balasaheb Thackeray passed away last week. An ocean of humanity was there to pay him its last respect. The mammoth gathering proved his towering personality, unmatched leadership and it was the reverence, admiration and regard for Thackeray—a visionary leader in Maharashtra’s politics in particular, and of Hindutva’s cause in general. Bal Thackeray’s startling transformation from a cartoonist into a proficient ruler was supported by all strata of society of a cosmopolitan and vibrant metropolis. He entered politics in the 1950s through the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, which called for a united Maharashtra inclusive of Mumbai, Konkan, Western Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. He gave a medium of venting out the frustration through Marmik, a Marathi weekly he had started after quitting an English daily. Thackeray single-handedly created and transformed Shiv Sena from a rag-tag bunch of youths in 1966 into a formidable force, which governed Maharashtra for four years from 1995 to 1999 along with BJP. Although Thackeray was accused of successfully creating vote-banks in Maharashtra by using a language of hate and violence against linguistic and religious minorities, before criticising the Shiv Sena leader, his opponents should not have ignored the fact that his weapon of ‘sons of the soil’ slogan was employed in all regions and by all political parties in India. At the most, the intensity of the demand could be graded from state to state. Thackeray was accused of playing Hindutva cards to fight religious minorities. But political hatred towards religious minorities should not be considered in isolation. The matter involves appeasement of minorities by some political parties and governments and the provisions of special minority rights and reservation to them. Hatred and special love are the sides of the same coin and are used by politicians to create vote-banks. None is free from violence. Chronologically, the hatred followed the appeasement.
However, an incident brought disgrace to Shiv Sena when some alleged Shiv Sainiks ransacked a clinic. Their illegal act was made worse by the craven act in which the police kowtowed to a violent group in Thane, which found the Facebook comment by one woman on the Mumbai shutdown following Bal Thackeray’s death, and its endorsement by her friend, objectionable. Against the backdrop of such incidents, especially after the demise of Balasaheb Thackeray, Shiv Sena may find it difficult to survive. Thackeray’s brand of politics had its own charisma and the Shiv Sena will not be able to ignore that in the absence of Thackeray. Out of power for 13 years now, the Sena lacks an engrossing political ideology that can bring it back into the contention for power in the state. The monolithic structure of the party, which starts and ends with the senior Thackeray, will find it difficult to survive in the future. Many blame Balasaheb’s son Uddhav’s failure to identify with any political issue. Bal Thackeray had a legacy of speaking in political idioms and associating himself with causes that endeared him to people. Uddhav is just carrying forward a legacy and has not been able to link himself to any cause. Raj Thackeray’s exit did not help Shiv Sena, even though he made the ‘Son of Soil’ issue his main plank. But it is not possible for the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena to replicate what the Shiv Sena had done in the 1960s-1990s, as the ground realities have changed. A great orator, Thackeray brought in a political style for Marathi mobilisation. Although none could disagree with Thackeray’s rather aggressive posture against linguistic and religious minorities, the fact remains that such distortions occurred because of the unhealthy policies of certain political parties to woo and pacify the minorities only for their votes—at the cost of majority—and not for their welfare and step-motherly treatment to the majority. One wonders whether such reactionary forces would have grown, had wiser counsel prevailed and had these parties been fair to both the minority and the majority. Balasaheb Thackeray’s was an outspoken expression of the voice of silent majority.