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India: Political boss Bal Thackeray dies, leaving Mumbai on tenterhooks

Bal Thackeray, the fiery leader of the far right Shiv Sena party, died at age 86 on Saturday
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(GlobalPost)

Shiv Sena founder and current chief Bal Thackeray -- a political boss with the power to turn Mumbai upside down -- died Saturday at age 86 after languishing for several days in critical condition.

The authorities virtually closed down India's financial capital in anticipation of violence when Thackeray's health was failing earlier this week. But so far the city appears to remain calm but tense. 

"He had suffered a cardiac arrest. We could not revive him despite our best efforts. He breathed his last at around 3.30pm," Dr Jalil Parkar, who treated the Sena chief, told reporters after emerging from the Thackeray residence this evening, the Times of India reported.

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, the paper said.

Security has again been stepped up in Mumbai following the leader's death.

As speculation rose that Thackeray had died, 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, the TOI said.

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.

Many supporters in the crowd broke down on hearing the news of their leader's death, the paper said.

As GlobalPost reported earlier, Thackeray, a former cartoonist, built the Shiv Sena around an ideology of "Mararashtra for the Maharashtrans," and used street action, including violence, to achieve his political aims. Initially, the party's main target were South Indian migrants who came to Mumbai for work in the 1960s. But more recently, the son-of-the-soil campaign has focused on a more recent wave of migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Notably, in keeping with his "Maharashtra for Maharashtrans" stance, it was Thackeray who initiated the campaign to change the name of India's financial capital from the anglicized "Bombay" to the Marathi "Mumbai," along with the names of many other streets and landmarks in the city.

 

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