Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray, who was critically ill for the past few days, died at his residence 'Matoshree' in suburban Bandra today.
He was 86.
"He had suffered a cardiac arrest. We could not revive him despite our best efforts. He breathed his last at around 3:30 pm," Dr Jalil Parkar, who treated the Sena supremo, told reporters after emerging from Thackeray residence this evening.
Thackeray had been suffering from respiratory problems and pancreatic disease. He is survived by sons Jaidev and Uddhav, who is the Executive President of the party.
Senior party leaders and Bal Thackeray's nephew Raj Thackeray along with family and other political leaders rushed to 'Matoshree'.
Meanwhile, security has been stepped up in the metropolis in the wake of Thackeray's death. The police also made the mediapersons move to a distance from Matoshree.
Earlier, senior Shiv Sena leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi had said: "We cannot say that he is recovering fast. It is a slow recovery, but he is slightly better now."
Sena mouthpiece Saamna
today had said that "Thackeray is recovering and there is no need to worry. Our warrior is fighting.
Media persons and Sena workers stationed outside 'Matoshree' realised around 4 pm that there was some development as several senior leaders from Sena, BJP and other parties started arriving and police were seen to have become more alert.
As the speculation rose, Shiv Sena leaders Sanjay Raut, Diwakar Raote accompanied by Dr Jalil Parkar, who had been treating Thackeray for the last three years, came out around 5 pm to announce Thackeray's demise.
On hearing the news, a frenzied mob of Shiv sainiks tried to enter 'Matoshree' by raising slogans "Bal Thackeray Amar Rahe' while police tried to prevent them from going inside and enhanced security allover.
Many of them in the crowd broke down on hearing the news about their leader's death.
Thackeray's health kept fluctuating since last few days with his son and party executive president Uddhav Thackeray appealing to Sainiks "to maintain calm and pray for his father" on Thursday night.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut appealed to people to maintain peace and harmony.
Thackeray was being treated by doctors from Lilavati Hospital -- Jaleel Parkar, Prakash Jindani and Samad Ansari - with assistance from Sena MLA Dr Deepak Sawant. No medical bulletin was issued, but Sena leaders briefed the media daily.
The condition of the 86-year-old Sena patriarch worsened on Wednesday night when he had to be put on life support. He was taken off life support later after showing signs of improvement.
In the last three days there was a steady stream of visitors to Matoshree, including Bollywood personalities. Among them were Amitabh Bachchan and his family, Salman Khan along with father Salim and brother Arbaaz, filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, actress Hema Malini, yesteryear stars Manoj Kumar, Jitendra and Rakesh Roshan.
Political bigwigs like NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar -- Thackeray's old friend; BJP president Nitin Gadkari, and senior leader Gopinath Munde, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Home Minister R R Patil, Finance Minister Jayant Patil among others visited Matoshree.
Thackeray addressed Shiv Sainiks every year on Dussehra at Mumbai's Shivaji Park since Sena's inception. However, this year he could not attend the annual event, and his recorded address was telecast.
In this recorded speech, Thackeray, visibly very ill, appealed the workers to support his son and executive president Uddhav Thackeray, and grandson and Sena youth wing president Aditya Thackeray.Mascot of Marathi Pride
From drawing cartoons with potent messages to etching for himself a larger-than-life image on Maharashtra's political landscape, Bal Thackeray was the mascot of Marathi pride and Hindutva who aroused extreme emotions but could never be ignored.
A rabble-rouser, the 86-year-old Shiv Sena supremo was idolised with almost God-like devotion by his frenzied sainiks and demonised in equal measure by detractors.
The maverick ways of Thackeray--Maharashtra's tallest leader--always led both his friends and rivals to underestimate him politically as he called the shots in state politics, often playing the role of a kingmaker without himself becoming the king. For some, the Tiger of Maharashtra was also a cultural icon.
Thackeray, a fiery orator who could bring the country's bustling financial capital to a standstill with a wave of his finger, started out as a cartoonist alongside R K Laxman at the English daily Free Press Journal
in the late 1950s. But he soon charted a new course when he launched a cartoon weekly Marmik
The weekly contained satirical pieces that fired up the "Marathi manoos" to fight for their identity and existence in a city witnessing growing influx of migrants.
Thackeray's pro-Marathi plank, that propounded 'Maharashtra for Maharashtrians', saw his party breaking ranks with his long-standing ideological ally BJP in 2007 presidential election when he chose to back UPA's presidential nominee, Pratibha Patil, who is a Maharashtrian.
He even criticised cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar in 2009 for remarking that Mumbai belonged to the whole of India.Shiv Sena: Marathi 'sons-of-the-soil'
Thackeray took to politics as fish to water as he launched Shiv Sena on June 19, 1966 to champion the cause of Marathi 'sons-of-the-soil', seeking job security for Maharashtrians, who were then facing stiff competition from Gujaratis and south Indians.
The frail-looking Thackeray, through his fiery oratory skills, caught the imagination of young Maharashtrians which many felt bordered on jingoism and chauvinism.
Born on January 23, 1926, he was the second of four children of Kesav Sitaram Thackeray, a writer who actively participated in the 'Samyukta Maharashtra Andolan' -- the movement for creation of a separate state for Marathi-speaking people with Bombay as its capital.
The self-confessed admirer of Adolf Hitler soon raised a veritable army of street fighters whom he would use to obtain jobs for the Maharashtrian youth in numerous textile and other industrial units dotting Bombay, earning the epithet of 'Hindu Hriday Samrat' (emperor of Hindu hearts), in the process.
Though Thackeray never contested an election himself, he sowed the seeds of a full-fledged party when his Shiv Sainiks began controlling trade unions in a variety of industries, including Bollywood.
Shiv Sena grew fast into a well-oiled political machine and gained control over the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in the 1980s, riding the pro-Marathi plank.
Thackeray's biggest moment in politics came when he struck an alliance with BJP in 1995 and formed its government in the state for the first time after tempering his strident pro-Marathi ideology and embracing a broader Hindu nationalist agenda. He ran this government by what he himself called a "remote control". However, he never occupied the post of chief minister.
Many believe the communal riots in the aftermath of the 1993 Mumbai blasts in which Shiv Sainiks were alleged to have played the pivotal role, polarised Hindu votes to the advantage of the Sena-BJP combine.
A judicial commission, headed by Justice B N Srikrishna, which had probed the riots, accused Thackeray of sparking anti-Muslim violence in Mumbai, which claimed over 1,000 lives.
Justice Srikrishna described Thackeray as a "veteran general who commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims" during the riots.
A firm believer in aphorism that familiarity breeds disregard, Thackeray meticulously created a larger-than-life image of himself, eschewing mingling with supporters and making up for that by giving grand 'darshan' from the balcony of his heavily-guarded Bandra home Matoshree and giving rabble-rousing speeches at his famous Dussehra rallies.Politics of Hate
Pakistan and Muslims were often the target of vitriolic attacks by Thackeray, who once likened Muslims to "cancer".
"Islamic terrorism is growing and Hindu terrorism is the only way to counter it. We need suicide bomb squads to protect India and Hindus," Thackeray had said.
In December 2003, Shiv Sena activists damaged the cricket pitch at Agra which was supposed to host a match between Pakistan and India. In April 2005, Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena, the students wing of Shiv Sena, attempted to prevent an India-Pakistan one day International in New Delhi.
Thackeray also targeted Bollywood icon Dilip Kumar, after he was presented Pakistan's highest civilian award in 1998 when he demanded the actor to return the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Pakistan's highest civilian award.
In 2010, Shiv Sena threatened to stop release of Shah Rukh Khan starrer My Name is Khan
over the actor's remarks favouring inclusion of Pakistani cricketers in IPL.
Seated on a throne with multiple images of a tiger, Thackeray virtually lorded over Mumbai for years, receiving political leaders, captains of business and industry and film personalities at his residence, all without holding any position of power.
He was known as much for his unconventional views, which he never fought shy of airing, as for his assiduously created persona, at times leading to run-ins with the law.
His penchant for strident speeches landed him in trouble when he was disenfranchised for six years between December 11, 1999 and December 10, 2005, following a high court ruling and Election Commission notification for appealing to the people to vote on communal lines.
Thackeray was a considerably mellowed man later in life when he said in his party mouthpiece Saamna
, "I am not against every Muslim but only those Muslims who live in this country but don't obey the law of the land."
After the July 11, 2006 train bombings in Mumbai in which 187 people were killed, he "saluted" Muslims who joined in observing a two-minute silence to mourn the dead.Anti-Migrant Views
Known for his anti-migrant views, Thackeray ruffled the feathers of Hindi-speaking politicians when he described Biharis as a "burden" in many places in the country in the aftermath of attacks on north Indians by activists of MNS, floated by his nephew Raj Thackeray.
For all his fulminations against Biharis, Thackeray was all praise for chief minister Nitish Kumar for ushering in development in the backward state.Fan of Hitler
In an interview to a national English daily, Thackeray was once quoted as having praised even Hitler.
"Hitler did very cruel and ugly things. But he was an artist, I love him (for that). You have to think (about) the magic he had. He was a miracle...Killing Jews was wrong. But the good part about Hitler was that he was an artist. He was a daredevil. He had good qualities and bad. I may also have good qualities and bad," Thackeray had said.
His views on the Fuehrer illustrated his own persona that seamlessly blended the affectionate tenderness of an artist that emotionally bound generations of Maharashtrians to the Shiv Sena, and the calculated aggression of a hard-boiled, tough-talking politician.Setbacks
In 1991, Thackeray's party suffered its first major blow when Chhagan Bhujbal, who had served twice as Sena's mayor of Mumbai, defected to Congress in protest against Thackeray's opposition to the Mandal commission report on reservations for OBCs.
Thackeray suffered a personal loss when his wife Meena died in 1995. The next year, Thackeray's eldest son Bindumadhav died in a road accident.
The biggest setback Thackeray received was in 2005, when Raj, his nephew, left Shiv Sena and formed his own political party, MNS, in 2006, a development that also dashed Sena-BJP's hopes to return to power.
Thackeray's health had of late been failing him. At Sena's Dussehra rally here on October 24, the "tiger's roar" was missing. In a video-recorded address, he virtually announced his retirement from public life and urged his followers to stand by son Uddhav and grandson Aditya, setting out the succession plan in Shiv Sena.
Bal Thackeray's body would be kept for `darshan' at Shivaji Park ground in central Mumbai tomorrow for the party members to pay their last respects, after which it will be taken for cremation. Movie theatres in Mumbai have been closed down for the day and will remain closed for tomorrow as well.
Personalities across the political spectrum and social sphere condoled the death of Bal Thackeray. Some Reactions
The nation has 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.
-- Pranab Mukherjee, President
I condole the death of Shiv Sena leader Balasaheb Thackeray. For him the
interests of Maharashtra were particularly important and he always
strived to inculcate a sense of pride in the people of the State. He
founded the Shiv Sena and built the party into a formidable force in the
State politics with his strong leadership and extraordinary
organizational skills. He was a consummate communicator whose stature in
the politics of Maharashtra was unique. The passing away of Bala Saheb
will be deeply felt by his family and followers. I
appeal for calm and sobriety during this period of loss and mourning.
--Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister
It is rare in the 65 years of Independent India that I have seen 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.
-- L.K. Advani
, Senior BJP Leader
The passing away of Thackeray has left behind a void which will be difficult to fill.
-- Digvijay Singh, Congress General Secretary
He was one of the most charismatic leaders of his generation and uncompromising in his principles.
-- Arun Jaitely, Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha
Maharashtra has lost a veteran, experienced leader....He was a politician, cartoonist, editor, organiser as well as art-lover and orator.
--Prithviraj Chavan, Maharshtra Chief MInister
Thackeray, as cartoonist, arrived on the scene like a storm after the collapse of communists in Mumbai, and took forward the legacy of his reformist father, `Prabodhankar' Thackeray.
-- Sushilkumar Shinde, Union Home Minister
He considered King Shivaji his idol. He worked for the people all his life. We took inspiration from him while governing in Maharashtra.
-- Nitin Gadkari, BJP President
A political era in Maharashtra politics has come to an end after the passing away of the Octogenerian Shiv Sena leader.
-- Nitish Kumar, Bihar Chief Minister
He dominated Maharashtra politics for a long period and many of his observations raised controversies.
-- Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister
Thackeray was a strong patriot and a good cartoonist who carved an identity of his own in Maharashtra. He had great affection towards me and was a guide for me.
, Gujarat Chief Minister
Fierce pride about Maharashtra, willingness to pay any price for the interest of Marathi language, Maharashtrians, but at the same time the readiness to contribute on Maharashtra's behalf for the sake of the country, these were the hallmarks of Balasaheb. 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 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
-- Sharad PawarHindu hriday samrat, param adarniya Shri Balasaheb Thackeray hum logon ko chhodke anant mein vileen ho gaye. Yeh satya hai ki aaj Maharashtra anaath ho gaya
, NCP Chief & Agriculture Minister
A senior, forthright, bold Hindutva leader who held sway over the masses and was an anchor for innumerable people has been snatched from us. A void which cannot be filled has been created in the social and political life of not just the Shiv Sena but also Maharashtra and the whole country.
-- Mohan Bhagwat
, RSS Chief
Mr Balasaheb Thackeray was a strong leader of his people, respected and admired by many. He was outspoken but driven by his principles.
-- Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons
. (The king of Hindu hearts, Shri Balasaheb Thakeray left us for eternity. It is true that Maharashtra is orphaned today).
-- Lata Mangeshkar, Singer
I sat by his bedside for hours these past few days, a prayer in my heart, watching him struggling to breathe, but fighting. Each day he continued his struggle with a grit that was baffling even for the doctors on hand. And just a couple of hours back, as I stand next to his still, peaceful, saffron draped body, it is difficult to imagine that he has left us!
-- Amitabh Bachchan, Actor
Sri Bala Saab Thackeray was a great leader and a father figure to many, including me. This is a great loss to all. My heartfelt condolences to all his family members and followers all over the world.. My prayers for his soul to rest in peace at the feet of the Lord.
We are deeply grieving the passing of Balasaheb Thackeray who I always thought was not a tiger but a lion. He had the virtues of a lion. We will cherish in our memories the lively evenings at his home when we smoothened out our differences over cups of strong masala tea. I found him extremely sensitive on occasions, especially during the days Sunil Dutt was going from pillar to post to get justice for his son Sanjay. Balasaheb's response was that of a father who understood a father’s desperation to save his son. We pray for Balasaheb's family, especially for his son Uddhav, to derive strength from the Almighty to bear the irreparable loss.
-- Dilip Kumar, Actor
(With inputs from PTI)