Bal Keshav Thackeray was a staunch Congress opponent since his early days. Born on the birth day of Subhash Chandra Bose, January 23, 1927, the founder of Shiv Sena was a rebellion since childhood. As his social worker father could not pay his school fees because of poverty the school asked Thackeray to leave when he was in sixth standard. However, lack of school education could not dent his wisdom, grasping ability, command over languages and an extraordinary ability to analyse the situation and read between the lines. He was a great cartoonist, journalist, politician and above of all a leader who had a very very special place in this followers’ heart. He virtually ruled Mumbai for almost four decades.
Thackeray used to work with as a cartoonist with Free Press Journal in the early days of his career. But the earnings he used to get were not enough to run his house. So he worked for various advertising agencies including Lintas and magazines. He deigned advertisements and drew sketches for them. One day he told his father Keshav (popularly known as Prabodhankar) that he did not earn much through these works and decided to start his own weekly dedicated to cartoons. Pabodhnakar supported his idea and suggested name for the weekly as ‘Marmik’. In those days there was only one cartoon weekly in the country, ‘Shankar’s Weekly’ published from New Delhi.
‘Marmik’ was published on August 13, 1960 at the hands of then Chief Minister Yashwantrao Chavan at Dadar’s Balmohan Vidya Mandir. Thackeray was the editor of the magazine. “Khicho na Kaman, na talwar nikalo, jab tp mukabil ho to akhbar nikalo” was its punch line. In Marmik, Thackeray commented on then political and social issues. On May 1, 1966 he wrote an editorial in Marmik and addressed the issue of migrants. “Maharashtra government makes land, electricity, water available for the industries. But the owners of the industries recruit labourers from outside Maharashtra. Is it right to make employment available for the migrants while the locals are searching for employment,” he wrote. In the same issue he published a list of migrant officers at the government fertilizer company at Turbhe. The list showed that only three officers were from Maharashtra while rest of the officers were from outside Maharashtra especially from south India. “This is an insult of Maharashtra,” Thackeray wrote. It was the beginning of his movement against migrants. Afterwards, Marmik started a series of publishing lists of non-Maharashtrian officers at various establishments. Thackeray also gave a list of non-Maharashtrian doctors at government and private hospitals and established that locals were been denied job opportunities. He gave a title ‘Vacha ani Utha’ (Read and awake) to these list.
On October 16, 1966 he published a list of officers in Hindustan Lever but this time changed the title as ‘Vacha ani thand basa’ (Read and keep quite) taunting the neutral locals. He incited the locals to fight against the injustice through the article. One of his headings ‘Kaalcha Madrashi, thodyach divsat tupashi’ (The Madrasi who came recently became rich soon) became popular that time. On June 5, 1966 Thackeray published a box in Marmik and announced that “We will launch Shiv Sena soon to revert the attacks of yandu-gundus (south Indians). Have a look at next edition of Marmik.”
He launched Shiv Sena on June 19, 1966. On October 23, 1966 Thackeray announced in Marmik that a rally of Shiv Sena will be organised at Dadar’s Shivaji Park on October 30, 1966. “Every self respected Marathi should attend the rally to stop his insult in his own state,” Thackeray appealed in Marmik. After Thackeray published activities of the organisation in Marmik. It soon became mouthpiece of Shiv Sena.
In 1967 Lok Sabha election, Marmik campaigned for S.G. Barve against then heavyweight V.K. Krishna Menon. P.K. Atre, who had supported Menon, was Thackeray’s favourite target for cartoons. A day before voting, Marmik published a four page supplement. Thackeray published a cartoon in which he showed Menon along with two foreigner girls and his hands around their shoulder. He captioned the cartoon as “Menon wants to be defence minister for this.” Barve won the election by defeating Menon. After the result, Thackeray published two cartoons. In one cartoon, he showed Menon’s stick washed away into sea and Atre as a swine. In another cartoon, he showed then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with a long nose and nine pimples. The cartoon stated that Indira would have to face defeat in nine states.
In 1969, Thackeray published fiery articles in Marmik demanding merger of Karwar, Belgum and Nipani in Maharashtra. These Marathi dominated areas were attached to Karnataka after the formation of states on linguistic basis. He highlighted one incidence at Parel’s Batliwala lane in which a 20-year-old Veena Sawant died in police firing while standing at varanda of her house situated on third floor during the agitation for demanding the said merger. Thackeray and second senior most leader Manohar Joshi were arrested during this agitation and sent to Pune’s Yerwada jail. After they were released in February 1969, Thackeray published his 10 letters to his wife Meena written during his stay in the jail.
Supporters shout slogans outside the residence of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray.
Marmik always published activities of Shiv Sena and its workers. Thackeray took care that the weekly represented true sentiments of the party workers. He had published an obituary of a common worker from Kurla Rajaram Metkar after his death. Metkar used to garland Thackeray in his each rally. Shiv Sena had an alliance with Praja Samajwadi Party (PSP) led by Madhu Dandawate in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in 1968. While Sena won 42, PSP bagged 11 seats. After some days, difference of opinion arose in the alliance. Thackeray wrote an editorial in Marmik and came down heavily on PSP. He alleged that Dandawate was behind him for entering into the alliance. After the editorial was published, PSP snapped ties with Shiv Sena.
In 1970’s there was speculation that Shiv Sena may be banned. Taking a serious note of the speculation, Bal Thackeray had suggested to convert Sena, which was not a political party then, into a political party and name it as ‘Azad Hind Party’. After Indira Gandhi announced emergency on June 26, 1975, Thackeray wrote an editorial in Marmik and supported the emergency. On August 31, 1975 he wrote, “Indiraji had to impose emergency because it was the only alternative to handle the situation created after unrest. We will have to make a difference between human being and machine. A machine has to be shut down to save it from malfunctioning. If a government employee is ready to adopt discipline the emergency should not be stretched to an extent where the machine of his life will start malfunctioning,” he said.
Thackeray announced snapping ties with Indira led Congress on April 12, 1982 through Marmik over the issue of strike by the mill workers in Mumbai. Shiv Sena adopted a line of Hindutva through Thackeray’s editorial in Marmik on November 29, 1987. Sena had fielded Ramesh Prabhu for a by-election of state assembly in Vile-Parle that time. “Only Shiv Sena can protect the Hindus,” Thackeray wrote. He started a Marathi daily ‘Saamana’ on his birthday on January 23, 1989. It was published at Savarkar memorial in Dadar. “Saamana will be a new weapon for campaigning Hindutva and answering the allegations leveled against Sena,” he announced. Later, Saamana became mouthpiece of Sena and Thackeray used the platform well to target his opponents.
Though Marmik and Saamana’s editorials reflected Thackeray’s views, he wrote the editorials rarely. After Shiv Sena’s formation either Thackeray’s father Keshav alias Prabodhankar Thackeray or Marmik’s assistant editor DP Khambete used to actually write the editorials after consultation with Thackeray. Later, Saamana’s executive editor Sanjay Raut did the job.
Thackeray was the remote control of Shiv Sena-BJP government that ruled Maharashtra between 1995-99. He never allowed his grip on the government becoming loose. In 2004, after the Shiv Sena-BJP combine suffered a second consecutive defeat in the state Assembly election he announced that he would not shave his beard till the combine resumes power. He passed away with his beard only.
First revolt in Shiv Sena
Shiv Sena saw its first revolt in 1967 within a year after its formation. Bal Thackeray sacked Malad unit chief Balwant Mantri for anti-party activities. Mantri had demanded to run the party in democratic ways. Mantri organised a rally at Vanmali Hall in Dadar to press for his demand. The shiv sainiks created ruckus in the rally and demanded that the differences in the organisation should be resolved in private and not in public. At the end, they stalled the proceedings of the rally and attacked Mantri. The sainiks tore his clothes and paraded him to the office of Marmik in Prabhadevi. Senior leader Manohar Joshi led the procession. Later, Mantri sought apology to Thackeray and assured that he would not do anything harmful to the organisation.
Thackeray’s first morcha
Bal Thackeray took his first morcha against Blitz magazine and Indian Express. Thackeray always suspected that ‘Blitz’ and ‘Indian Express’ ran campaign against Sena since beginning. Thackeray led the morcha and at the end of the morcha the Sena workers burnt copies of ‘Blitz’ and ‘Indian Express’. Thackeray led his second morcha on May 20, 1968 at Fort against the street vendors. “Ekach Insaaf, Fort saaf” was the slogan of the morcha. Initially, the morcha was silent but when reached at Hutatma Chowk, it took violent turn. Some people pelted stones at the Khadi Gramodyog shop and threw books at the street book vendors.
Thackeray’s first court case
Thackeray went to the court for the first time against street vendors. He had filed a petition against the vendors in the Fort area alleging that they were involved in smuggling. Pramod Navalkar and Manohar Joshi were the other petitioners in the case.
Sena’s first Thane unit chief
Dr Vijay Dhavale was Shiv Sena’s first chief in Thane. He had established a centre to help the unemployed youth and successful helped 800 people to get employment. He negotiated with the Thane Hotel Association president PP Mangala and managed to reduce the food rates in the city by 20 percent. Thackeray was very happy with Dhavale’s performance. Later, Dhavale settled in Ottava city in Canada.
Thackeray’s first arrest
Bal Thackeray was first arrested on February 9, 1969 for creating rot after trying to stop then deputy prime minister Morarji Desai’s car at Mahim. Sena had decided to stop Desai’s car and give him a memorandum demanding merger of Belgaum, Karwar and Nipani in Maharashtra. When the Sena workers tried to stop Desai’s car, his driver drove it fast and injured several sainiks. Desai’s car rammed a sainik Satyakant Penkar and injured Sena’s photographer Ashok Karambelkar. Angry sainik started riot after the incident and lasted for four days. Army was deputed in the city and they resorted firing. Over all 69 people died in the agitation. After the riot, Thackeray, Manohar Joshi and Dattaji Salvi were arrested and sent to Yerwada jail in Pune and later to Arthur Road jail in Mumbai. They were released after 100 days. Thackeray again was arrested in 1973 after a person was killed after Sena’s morcha at Worli dairy protesting the price hike in milk. He was later released on a bail of Rs 500.
First attack on Thackeray
The first attempt to attack on Bal Thackeray was made in May 1969 at Nagpur airport by communist workers. Thackeray had gone to Nagpur for a rally. On his way back to Mumbai he reached Nagpur airport around 1:30 am. As there was some time for the flight, Thackeray bought a book ‘Wild Life in India’ and began reading. A group of 10 communist workers approached Thackeray and told him that they wanted to discuss a matter with him. Thackeray refused to discuss anything as the departure time of the flight was near. One person named Manohar Naidu from the group tried to go closer to Thackeray. Sensing trouble, Thackeray slapped him. After that the shiv sainiks surrounding him, attacked the communist workers. In another incident, Thackeray had opened fire in air from his licensed revolver at Mahim to prevent a mob from attacking him on September 26, 1969. Thackeray was on his way to Bandra from Dadar in his private car with wife Meena. At Mahim church, a Muslim taxi driver overtook him. Angry Thackeray stopped the car and asked the cabbie why he did so. There was heated argument between them. Soon, a mob gathered there. Sensing trouble, Thackeray opened fire in air in self defence and took the cabbie to Mahim police station. Then chief minister Vasantrao Naik had requested the press not to publish the news as there was tension in the city since riots in Ahmedabad a few days ago.
First shiv sainik murdered
A worker from Naigaon Sadakant Dhavan was the first shiv sainik who was murdered. He was killed at Nehru Nagar on June 26, 1970. He was cremated at Dadar crematorium. Bal Thackeray was present for the funeral. “Sadanad will be the last shiv sainik who has been murdered. The opponents should take this into consideration,” Thackeray had said that time. A garden in Bhoiwada was named after Sadanand Dhavan.
When RSS supported Sena
After communist MLA Krishna Desai was murdered, the by-election was announced in Parel in September 1970. While Sena fielded Vaman Mahadik in the by-election, the communists had Desai’s widow Sarojini as their candidate. Nine political parties had supported Desai. Sena organised 28 rallies in the constituency. Rising Sun was its symbol in the election. Comrade Dange and senior Congress leaders Mohan Dharia and Shankarrao Chavan campaigned for Desai. At that time, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Moropant Pingale appealed to vote for Shiv Sena. Around 75 per cent voting was registered in the bye-election. Mahadik won the election and Sena entered in the state legislative assembly. Mahadik bagged 31,952 votes against Desai’s 29,913 votes.
Sena’s first mayor in Mumbai
Dr Hemchandra Gupte became Shiv Sena’s first mayor in Mumbai in 1971.
Sena’s tie up with RPI
Shiv Sena had an alliance with Republican Party of India (RPI) in the BMC election in 1973. While Sena won 39 seats, the RPI bagged only one seat. “I wished to have an alliance with the RPI since Shiv Sena was formed. The caste system Congress had promoted needs to be broken. We will have a different path now. Whenever there will be attacks on the dalits, 500 shivsainiks and 500 RPI sainiks will reach there together and teach the attackers a lesson,” Thackeray had announced that time. “The Marathis are uniting due to this alliance. The republics are the social dalit and we are the political dalits,” Thackeray said. In 1978 assembly election, Thackeray and RPI leader Namdeo Dhaval held joint campaign rally at Parel.
Two stalwarts who fought for regional pride, Bal Thackeray and M Karunanidhi met only once in the life. A meeting between Thackeray and Karunanidhi took place on May 16, 1978 at Hotel Oberoi. The meeting lasted for half an hour. None of them revealed what was discussed in the meeting. They maintained that it was a courtesy call and politics was not discussed in the meeting. Karunanidhi said that the meeting took placed on Thackeray’s request. Whereas Thackeray said, “We discussed every topic. I requested him to send me a copy of his book on more powers’ to the states.”
Sena’s alliance with Muslim League
Shiv Sena had an alliance with Muslim League for a short period in March 1979. Bal Thackeray and Muslim League leader GM Banatwala had held a joint rally at Mastan Talao in south Mumbai. Thackeray had announced that both the parties will agitate for their legitimate demands. He said that the alliance was not a political one. After some days they demanded to take back hike in the railway fair and announced a free rail journey agitation till the hike is not taken back. The railway cut the hike by 50 percent in the annual budget in April. Thackeray claimed that it was impact of the Sena-League alliance. Soon after that the alliance was broken.
Dussehra rally cancelled for the first time
Shiv Sena’s annual Dussera rally was first cancelled in 1979 following Thackeray’s illness. Thackeray was not in a position to attend the rally as he was suffering from fever.
Thackeray joined hands with Pawar and Fernandes
Bal Thackeray, George Fernandes and Sharad Pawar joined hands in October 1982 against the ruling Congress. They held a joint ‘friendship rally’ on October 27 at Shivaji Park and appealed the BJP to join them. Pawar was in Congress (S) that time. They announced that to work against the Congress in general election. Later, three of them took a morcha on the office of Girni Malak Sangh against the indefinite strike of mill workers called by trade union leader Datta Samant.
Thackeray and controversies
Bal Thackeray had an equation with controversies. While some controversies sparked a debate in the country some of them were proved just a storm in a cup of tea. Known for his fiery and abusive language Thackeray often attracted controversies. Thackeray sparked his first controversy in public life in 1966 by calling the south Indians “yandu gundu”. He published a list of south Indian officers working in Pimpari’s Penicillin factory in ‘Marmik’ under a heading “Everyone yandu gundu in Pimpari’s factory”. The article created uproar in Maharashtra.
In 1968, Thackeray announced to boycott the Hindi movies produced by the south Indian producers till the protest against Hindi movies in Tamilnadu continues. “Hindi movies are not being allowed screening in Tamilnadu so the south Indian producers release their Hindi films in Mumbai and took the money there. I am not against their earnings but there is no other way to teach a lesson to the people who burn national flag and demand for separate Tamilnadu,” Thackeray said. After Thackeray’s statement, most of the cinema hall owners withdrew the films ‘Do Kaliya’, ‘Ram Aur Shyam’ and ‘Farz’ produced by the south Indian producers. One such producer Maiyappan met Thackeray and complained that he suffered a huge financial loss due to Sena’s stand. Thackeray put three demands before him. First, Hindi films should be allowed release in Madras (now Chennai) and Maiyappan meet the TN chief minister for the same. Second, if the CM denies the permission, the south Indian producers should shift their studios from Madras to Mumbai and third they should recruit the local technicians. Maiyappan agreed on the conditions. After that Thackeray allowed screening of ‘Do Kaliya’.
The state government had banned puja at historic Durgadi Fort in Kalyan because the Muslim used the place to offer prayer. Thackeray went to the fort along with Manohar Joshi and Vasant Marathe and declared that the fort was a Hindu structure and Shiv Sena will not allow anybody to displace Hindus from the fort. “I will call the Muslims mine if they are loyal to Bharat Mata,” Thackeray said. Since then, the Sena started celebrating navratri on the fort. The tradition is still going on.
Krishna Desai murder case
A heavyweight communist leader and then MLA from Parel Krishna Desai was brutally murdered on June 5, 1970 outside his Lalbaug residence. It was the first political murder in Maharashtra post Independence. The accused arrested in this case were all shivsainiks. The communist leaders alleged that Thackeray was the mastermind of the murder. They demanded to make him co-accused in the case. However, Thackeray refuted the allegations by saying, “Krishna Desai was my rival but not the enemy. The rivalry has come to an end with his death,” he said.
Slapping to Air India manager
In 1972, Bal Thackeray led a morcha to Air India office at Nariman Point from Azad Maidan protesting the airlines’ “anti Marathi policies”. SK Nanda was the chief personnel of Air India that time. The Sena workers assaulted him and slapped him. They kicked him after falling him on the floor. Thackeray admitted that Nanda was slapped by the Sena workers. “It is true that Nanda was assaulted. He deserves it. He hates the Marathis. The people whose job applications were rejected by Nanda must have slapped him. I do not know who they were,” he said.
Oppose to renaming of Marathwada University
Then chief minister Sharad Pawar announced to rename Marathwada University as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar University. The state assembly passed a resolution in this regard on July 27, 1978. Sena opposed the resolution and started fiery agitation in Marathwada on July 30. They requested Thackeray, who was in Pune at that time, to join them. Thackeray decided to leave for Aurangabad but Pawar requested him not to go there. Thackeray accepted his request but demanded that a word Marathwada should be there and the name of the university should be as Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University which Pawar accepted.
Row over Ghashiram Kotwal
Thackeray had opposed the Marathi play ‘Ghashiram Kotwal’ written by Vijay Tendulkar in 1980. The play was based upon the life of a scholar Nana Phadnavis in the rule of the Peshwas. Tendulkar had portrayed Phadnavis as characterless in the play. Noted literate Durga Bhagvat and communist leader SA Dange criticised Tendulkar for the play. Thackeray had taken an open stand against the play. At the same time, Theatre Academy decided to take the play for International Play Festival in Berlin. Then foreign minister PV Narsimharao opinioned that thought the play was good it had portrayed Phadnavis in bad manner. However, literate Pu La Deshpande, SP Bhagvat, actor Shriram Lagoo, Basu Chatterjee, Basu Bhattacharya, Amol Palekar and journalist Kumar Ketkar put their weight on the play’s side. The government of India denied permission to take the play to Berlin on the grounds that it did not represent the Indian tradition. However, literate Vijaya Mehta and former chief minister Sharad Pawar opposed the decision. The matter was handed over to Prime Minister Indiara Gandhi for final decision. She ruled that there will be no restrictions on the play. Thackeray opposed Gandhi’s decision. Simultaneously, he along with Pramod Navalkar and Daji Panshikar filed a case against the play in the sessions court. In the court, it was decided to show disclaimer before the play begins. The disclaimer read as: “Nana Phadvanis was the diwan with the Peshwas during 1773 to 1800. Even the British also admitted that it was Phadanavis’ policies and vision that the British could not enter into the Peshwas’ province for more than 25 years.” After the compromise the play reached Berlin and became popular there soon.
Mill workers’ strike
Trade union leader Dr Datta Samant had called for mill workers’ one day strike on November 1, 1981. He demanded 20 per cent bonus, 10 per cent HRA, annual TA Rs300, night shift allowance for the workers in second and third shift, one month paid leave, the right to decide the union through secret voting etc. After the one day strike Samant decided to call for indefinite strike. He gave the government deadline of 15 days to take a decision. The government formed a committee under chief minister AR Antulay but did not take any decision till 48 days. Meanwhile, Thackeray also decided to join the indefinite strike. He held meetings of the Sena workers and officials for the preparation of the strike. Thackeray organised a rally at Kamgar Maidan to announce Sena’s support to the indefinite strike. The ground was packed as the workers were eager to hear Thackeray’s announcement. Just before the rally started, Antulay had a talk with Thackeray. In his speech, Thackeray announced to suspend the strike. Immediately after his announcement the workers left the ground. Thackeray requested them to listen to them but they were not in a mood of listening him. Thackeray’s speech lasted for only 20 minutes. Though Sena backtracked, Samant was adamant on his stand and he went on with the indefinite strike. It is believed that the indefinite strike became a reason for the end of cotton mills in Mumbai. The mills were closed down and lakhs of workers lost their employment. The newspapers reports said that 115 mills were closed down, 26,125 workers lost employment, they lost salary of Rs1.92 lakh. It is said that the strike was never officially called back.
Thackeray’s popular slogans
Shivrayanchi shapath tumhala, vijayi kara Shiv Senela (You are pledged with Shivaji, make Shiv Sena win)
Bajao Pungi, Hatao Lungi
Bund ji ban gayee moti, Shiv Sena hamara sathi
Launch of ambulance service
Today, Shiv Sena has a fleet of ambulances with it. After actor Amitabh Bachchan got severely injured while shooting for his film Coolie in Bangalore he was brought to Mumbai to get admitted in Breach Candy Hospital. Thackeray asked the party workers of Dr Bhadkamkar Road shakha to send an ambulance to carry Bachchan to the hospital. It was the first ambulance of the party.
What Thackeray said about Shiv Sena
In a non political interview to ‘Marmik’, Thackeray had explained his vision for Shiv Sena.
“The awareness Shiv Sena has created will never die. It will last for ever. The question is who will continue this and how transparently. The question will arise one day. Whoever will run Shiv Sena must have to take care that he does not convert it in Congress. Shiv Sena should remain as Shiv Sena only. No one can touch Shiv Sena till it remains as Shiv Sena. No matter whether I am there or not. But people themselves will not allow diluting the Sena