One of the most influential leaders in Maharashtra politics for about six decades, Bal Keshav Thackeray, famously known as Balasaheb Thackeray, was born on January 23, 1926. He was a significant political leader who played a pivotal role in shaping Maharashtra's politics. Balasaheb Thackeray was loved and supported by millions of people for upholding the cause of the local Marathi community (the Marathi manoos); however, he was highly criticised for his political style, based on hatred of the 'other', mainly Muslims.
PM Modi pays tribute to Balasaheb Thackeray
On his birth anniversary today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray by describing him as a towering figure whose impact on Maharashtra's political and cultural landscape is unparalleled.
Thackeray's early life and political career
Balasaheb began his career as a cartoonist for the Free Press Journal in Mumbai and later founded the political weekly Marmik. Balasaheb's father, Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, was active in the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, which highly influenced Balasaheb's philosophy, following which he founded the Shiv Sena in 1966, an influential political party representing the interests of Maharashtrians in the state.
Thackeray was often referred to as 'Tiger' for executing significant changes and making controversial judgments that influenced the country's politics. At the beginning of his career, Thackeray gained fame for his political cartoons, signing as 'Mava' in the Free Press Journal. Thackeray introduced the concept of 'Marathi Manoos,' which became a symbol of Marathi pride and earned him the nickname 'Tiger of Maharashtra.'
Thackeray's politics was highly controversial and distinct from other regional political parties. In the late 1960s, the Shiv Sena targeted south Indians, and in 1989, it formed a close alliance with the BJP, just the time when the Ayodhya Ram Temple movement was at its peak. That movement, which culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, was largely blamed for the tragic communal riots that erupted across the country, including Maharashtra, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, aimed for a separate state for Marathi-speaking people, gained success in 1960 when Maharashtra was formed. However, after the Sena was established in 1966, the Shiv Sena changed the political dynamics by introducing views towards non-Marathi speakers. Thackeray's association with the Shiv Sena resulted in the party receiving support from many Hindu leaders and the BJP. Thackeray's remark through Shiv Sena's mouthpiece, Saamana, on organising Hindu suicide bomb squads against Islamic terrorism in 2008 drew a lot of attention.
Existing Shiv Sena
The Shiv Sena has now split into two factions. The one backed by the majority of its lawmakers partners with the BJP and is headed by Eknath Shinde, while the other, headed by Thackeray's son, Uddhav Thackeray, aligns with the state opposition.