Leaders across the political spectrum on Saturday condoled the death of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh describing him as a “consummate communicator” whose stature in Maharashtra politics was “unique.”
President Pranab Mukherjee said the nation had lost a veteran leader who worked to help the common man and whose contributions in the field of media added a different perspective to the political discourse.
Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley too expressed their condolences.
Dr. Singh, who called up Mr. Thackeray’s son Uddhav, appealed to the people to maintain calm and sobriety.
The interests of Maharashtra were “particulary important” for Mr. Thackeray and “he always strived to inculcate a sense of pride in its people,” the Prime Minister said.
“He founded the Shiv Sena and built the party into a formidable force in the State politics with his strong leadership. The passing away of Balasaheb will be deeply felt by his family and his followers,” he said.
Mr. Advani said Mr. Thackeray’s death left a “gaping void” in the country’s politics, which “cannot be filled. It is rare that I have seen in these 65 years of independent India a political leader who has left such a deep and abiding imprint on the country’s events as Balasaheb Thackeray. Uncompromising in his patriotism, he possessed remarkable qualities of leadership and abundance of attributes of head and heart,” he said.
“He was full of life”
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said “Balasaheb Thackeray was an epitome of courage and valour. He was full of life. He fought like a warrior. I’ve lost someone who always guided me.”
“He was a king-maker who stayed away from the hot seat of politics. His death marks the end of an era. He had carved a niche in Indian politics. He never compromised on nationalism and was a true nationalistic leader,” he said.
Maharashtra Governor K. Shankaranarayanan said Mr. Thackeray was an institution and his death saddened the heart of every person in Maharashtra.
“He was the leader of the masses with unprecedented popularity. Balasaheb was truly an institution.”
A father figure, says Rajinikanth
Film actor Rajinikanth said “Thackeray was a great leader and a father figure to many including me. This is a great loss to all.” — PTI
Mumbai Staff Reporter reports:
“Big loss for NDA”
BJP president Nitin Gadkari said, “Balasaheb’s death is a big loss for the [National Democratic] Alliance. There was no place for conspiracy in his heart. He used to speak whatever was on his mind. He followed the true legacy of Shivaji Maharaj,”
BJP national spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said the country had lost a great leader. “He was the tallest leader of our alliance in Maharashtra. His only aim in the alliance government was that there should be fast growth in the State. Maharashtra’s politics is orphaned without him,” he said.
“Ever since 1984 he believed that Hindutva will succeed and rise over everything else,” Mr. Javadekar stated.
“Balasaheb symbolised the support of the alliance, on which it was strongly built. It has ended today. He was a staunch Hindutvawadi. All the Hindus in the country will feel like they have lost a father figure today,” BJP leader Gopinath Munde said. Maharashtra BJP chief Sudhir Mungantiwar said Mr. Thackeray was “a father figure, a kingmaker who stayed away from power.”
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar called him a ‘fighter of a person.’ “Balasaheb is no more with us. But his contribution to the State will keep reminding us of his legacy. From the farmers of the State, and from my party, I pay my respect to him,” he said. “He criticised me with choicest words. We disagreed on many things. But otherwise he always supported the decision that needed to be made. He was a man who made fearless decisions. It is because of this that he supported the emergency, stating that the country needs to be disciplined,” Mr. Pawar said.
Ramdas Athavle of the Republican Party of India which has recently joined the saffron combine said, “He was an architect of social and political change in Maharashtra. Attempt to bring together Aambedkarwadi together with Shiv Sainiks was very progressive. We will strive to continue his legacy.”
Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, who was first a part of the Shiv Sena, remembered Mr. Thackeray’s free editorial policy for the party organ Saamna . “He told me whatever is anti-national should not be published in Saamna . Even if I say something, you have a right to criticise it,” he said.
NCP leader Chagan Bhujbal who was also a part of the Shiv Sena said Balasaheb treated him like family. “I have lived with him and learned from him for 25 years. We have criticised each other a lot. But today, the nation has lost a great leader.”
Singers Asha Bhosale and Lata Mangeshkar called Balasaheb the ‘Pride of Marathi manoos’ “I have very good memories of him, this is a big loss to Maharashtra,” Ms. Bhosale said. “He told me recently that he is not going to live for many days now.”
“We never spoke about politics. He laughed and made us laugh. There is nobody to take care of Maharashtra now.” Ms. Mangeshkar said.
Veteran actor Dilip Kumar, who earned the ire of Mr. Thackeray after he was presented Pakistan’s highest civilian award, mourned the death of the Shiv Sena supremo.
“We are deeply grieving the passing of Balasaheb Thackeray who I always thought was not a tiger but a lion,” he tweeted.
Writer Shobha De stated that the history of Mumbai is interlinked with Balasaheb’s rise. “There is much more to him than violence that is popularly associated with him. He is credited with giving pride to Maharashtrians.”
Tribute for Mr. Thackeray also came from Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad, “I have met him personally and he treated me like a family friend. He had no hard feelings for any sport,” he said.
Mr Thackeray was known for his stand against the Pakistan cricket team.