MUMBAI: Bal Keshav Thackeray, founder of Shiv Sena and one of Maharashtra’s most iconic and divisive figures, died on Saturday after ailing for weeks. Thackeray, 85, was seriously ill since Wednesday when his blood pressure plunged and he lost consciousness.
“He suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest today. We could not revive him despite our best efforts. He breathed his last at 3.33pm,” said pulmonologist Dr Jalil Parkar, who was the Sena chief’s doctor for the last five years and was by his bedside till the end. In his last days, Thackeray received round-the-clock attention from a battery of Mumbai’s best doctors.
Thackeray’s body, wrapped in saffron and with his trademark dark glasses on, has been kept in a glass casket in a hall on the second floor of ‘Matoshree’, his residence in Bandra. It will be taken at 7am on Sunday to Shivaji Park, where legions of supporters are expected to pay their last respects between 10am and 5pm. A large stage is being erected on the sprawling grounds under the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Party leaders announced that the final rites will be held at 6pm at the Shivaji Park crematorium.
Thackeray is survived by sons Jaidev and Uddhav, who is executive president of the party. News of his demise was followed by an appeal from Uddhav to cadres to maintain calm. However, the city of Mumbai and its suburbs had already begun shutting down in anticipation of trouble.
The post-Thackeray phase marks a new era in Maharashtra’s politics and heightens speculation about the strategies the Sena would need to adopt in the absence of its principal crowd-puller.