Even as the flow of anxious visitors to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s residence continued all through Thursday, senior Sena leaders said the 86-year-old was responding to treatment and his health was showing improvement.President Pranab Mukherjee’s scheduled visit to Mumbai was cancelled as the city awoke to rumours of the Sena’s leader’s failing health.
Mr. Mukherjee was to preside over the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation awards and also visit Shirdi.
All over the State, prayers and pujas were performed for the speedy recovery of Mr. Thackeray even as no medical bulletin was put out. Security around Bandra was tightened with an estimated 1,500 personnel, including of the Rapid Action Force, the State Reserve Police Force and the city police. While life was normal in most parts of the city, shops were closed in some areas, like the Sena stronghold of Dadar, and fewer people were seen on the road — it being the last day of Diwali, or Bhau Beej.
The area around ‘Matoshree’ in Kala Nagar was cordoned off with barricades in several places but even the tight police cordon could not prevent Shiv Sainiks and onlookers from breaking through and making a beeline for the entrance.
For the second day in succession, ‘Matoshree’ received VIP visitors and film stars, including Salman Khan, his father Salim and brother Arbaaz, Manoj Kumar, Kailash Kher, Nana Patekar, Rishi Kapoor, his son Randhir and brother Rajeev Kapoor, Hariharan, Udit Narayan, industrialists Venugopal Dhoot, Rahul Bajaj and politicians of all hues — Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Nitin Gadkari, Governor K. Sankaranarayanan, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, State Home Minister R.R. Patil, apart from Sena leaders Manohar Joshi, Neelam Gorhe , Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athavale and others.
Sena MLA Subhash Desai told the media that the prayers of countless Sainiks were working as Mr. Thackeray had recovered. Most Sena leaders maintained that Mr. Thackeray’s health was stable — which has been the refrain of all the visitors who spoke to the media.
BJP MP Gopinath Munde said the Sena leader’s health was stable and better than it had been the previous day. Sena MP Sanjay Raut too called on party workers to keep calm and said Mr. Thackeray was responding well to treatment. He called on people not to believe rumours.
Mr. Manohar Joshi said doctors would be the best placed to speak on Mr. Thackeray’s health. He said he had not met the Sena chief during the day but his health appeared to be improving.
Congress MP Husain Dalwai said: “Balasaheb is stable since yesterday [Wednesday]. I didn’t see him but spoke to Uddhav [Thackeray, his son]. Balasaheb has strong will power and he has overcome many difficulties in the past. We are praying for his recovery.”
Towards the evening, Sena MP Anil Desai asked the crowds gathered outside the house, clamouring to see the Sena leader, to maintain calm. A State government official said there was tight security and sufficient police deployment across the city.
Mr. Gadkari and other BJP leaders met Mr. Uddhav Thackeray. At 2 a.m. on Thursday, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, accompanied by his son Aditya, spoke to the crowd outside his residence and reassured it on his father’s recovery.
Function postponed, shooting cancelled
Veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar tweeted that she was postponing the function of her music company: “I am extremely disturbed and concerned about the critical health of Shri Balasaaheb Thackeray, who is like a family member to me... In view of this, I am postponing the function of my music company to a later date… My prayers are with Balasaheb and the entire Thackeray family.”
It is also reported that shooting of films and TV serials was cancelled on Thursday in view of Mr. Thackeray’s health condition.