[View the story "Bal Thackeray (1926-2012)" on Storify]
As the the readers' reaction makes it clear, Balasaheb was a highly divisive figure. You can either love or hate him, but you can't be indifferent. His critics would argue that fearing attacks from Shiv Sena hooligans Bombay's celebrities made a beeline to visit an ailing Balasaheb and the Mumbaikars stayed indoors after he passed away . His followers would counter that Balasaheb was immensely popular with the ordinary citizens citing the large crowd of mourners at his funeral. There are elements of truth in both the arguments.
Balasaheb's popularity among his followers came from his politics of majorityism that distinguished Shiv Sena from other rivals like Congress or the communists. A large section of ordinary Maharashtrians fell for the provincial messages while his brand of fierece communalism endeared him to a section of Hindus. Balasaheb never engaged in any constructive politics. Nor did he give any promises to his followers unlike typical politicians. So he did not have to bother about accountability. Instead his fire brand hate speech gave an outlet to vent out the frustrations of common Maharashtrians in their daily struggles.His simple message to followers was to resort to violence and vandalism to express anger toward all perceived enemies It is a lot easier to bash up a migrant worker , vandalize an Udupi restaurant or smash windscreen of a taxi of a Bihari cab driver than to suggest solution for unemployment problem faced by the Marathi working class..
Although the image of a brave Maharashtrian following in the footsteps of the Maratha icon Shivaji might have stirred imaginations of lots of Marathis, in reality his practices were far from courageous. Shiv Sena is a group of hooligans in the disguise of a political party which only intimidates the weak and the timid common men. Killing innocent Muslims in Hindu dominated localities of Mumbai during the communal riots was not an act of bravery by any stretch of imagination. Yet the Shiv Sainiks who are always there to intimidate the innocent Muslims in Hindu localities or vandalize Wankhade stadium before a test match with Pakistan were nowhere seen during 26/11 terrorist attacks. But then his Marathi followers are happy with the symbolic act of bravery and fiery speeches that arouse Marathi nationalism.
Balasaheb's legacy is a divisive ideology based on xenophobia, provincialism and communalism. Can Uddhav and Raj continue to reap political dividend from this or will Sena become weak and irrelevant after his death? Only Maharashtrians can answer.
It is true, that people like what he admired about his state. But, every state has similar sentiment. It seems, I have a reason to like his culture, similar to his perception. I would find it similar, though that other states also feel exactly like him. Every state, feels that they have a leader like him. I like the fact, that it is very visible in many ways, in different states.
MYTH OF THE TIGER: He was a smart cat who strayed on to a political playing field where seasoned players used him to hound pesky pests seeking to encroach upon prized arena territory. Smelling an opportunity to further his pet regional agenda and transcend from being mere leader of a rat-pack within the confines of a micro periphery on to a center-stage, he jumped to give chase, and backed by new found pelf and muscle power, he tasted victory with every hunt. His amplified purr found echo in his ears in a loud roar. Reflecting on his new found image, with his artistic flair he made a beeline for a makeover with stripes and a snarl to emerge as a roaring tiger who held an intimidated metropolis of Mumbai, captive in his clenched claws for over four decades.
Not sure how much development SS-BJP government did from 1995-1999 as this government got barely 4.5 years to rule Maharashtra. Mumbai-Pune expressway was definitely Balasaheb Thackeray's brain child. Perhaps this was the most important reason behind IT boom in Pune.
Former PM's IndraKumar Gujral's Son was very upfront sharing about Balasaheb. He said EVERY Punjabi and more so SIKH is mourning with ShivSena as in 1984 --- on 1 request from then President ZailSingh -- Balasaheb gave a word that -- No Sikh will be harmed in Mumbai - Maharashtra --- it happened -- Not a single Sikh was killed in the state....He was VERY OPEN and FRANK when he shared his gratitude for Balasaheb....!!!! he came on almost EVERY channel and made some nasty people very uncomfortable by this praise....!! Dekhane jaise ho gaye the chehere logo ke!!!
The only redeeming factor about this man(h)oos was that but for him, there was a good chance of Mumbai going to the dogs of underworld, with that corrupt anti-national, Sharad Pawar calling the shots.