Millennium Post
Opinion

The life and times of Bal Thackeray

With the demise of Bal Thackaray, India has lost a son who devoted himself to larger causes. Though not universally popular, and percieved as an advocate of a narrow-minded regionalism, he was nevertheless also a supporter of Indian nationalism - a fact not easily understood, largely because of his somewhat erratic early stands on political issues. It is true that he thrived on regional and linguistic politics, but he was also a champion of the pan-Indian national cause. Despite being largely embroiled in the politics of his state, he mellowed down considerably  in his later years, though, this may not be said of the Shiv Sena in general, of which political party he was the founder. He did get alienated from many people because of his hardline stands, many of which were born from a feeling of being fed up of the cesspool that politics in Maharashtra had become as well as of the criminality that it had become. To end thse indeed, was one of the original goals for the foundation of the Shiv Sena. Unfortunately, it deviated from this goal, getting derailed into parochial politics and even violence at times. Thackeray may have had a change of heart, for  he began to transcend the parochial approach, and began to ally his party with larger players on the national stage. He also for this reason began to expand the reach of his political party beyond Maharashtra and well outside even the neighbourings states, having realised that Maharashtra was not an isolated island, a fact often overlooked by his critics. Having developed a national perspective, he began to fight for national causes vigorously, even deploying those who worked for the Shiv Sena to these. Though he had considerable success at the centre and in some of the states in electoral politics, he was not fully able to capitalise on these successes, perhaps because of ill-health and the fact that he was typecast into a narrow parochial mould, which he found difficult to break out of. He also left the care of the Maharastrian units of the Shiv Sena in the hands of others because he wanted to devote himself to the wider national cause. However, the moment he stepped into national politics, he found himself a victim of innuendo and personal attacks .

It may not be well-known that Thackaray,  was a talented cartoonist and journalist, having had a  career in a leading newspaper – the Free Press Journal – in Mumbai. From here he migrated to the realm of politics where he may have found his true niche. Thus what may have been a loss to journalism was a gain to politics.
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