Bal Keshav Thackeray (23 January 1926 – 17 November 2012) was an Indian politician who founded the Shiv Sena, a Hindu right-wing Marathi ethnocentric party active mainly in the western state of Maharashtra.
Early life and family
Thackeray was born in Pune on 23 January 1926 to Ramabai and Keshav Sitaram Thackeray. He was the eldest of nine siblings and belonged to the Marathi Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu or CKP community. Thackeray commenced his career as a cartoonist in the Free Press Journal in Mumbai. His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The Times of India. In 1960, he started the cartoon weekly Marmik with his brother Srikant. He used it to campaign against the growing numbers and influence of non-Marathi people in Mumbai, targeting south Indians. After Thackeray’s differences with the Free Press Journal, he and four or five people, including politician George Fernandes, left the paper and started their own daily News Day. The paper stayed for one or two months. Thackeray was married to Meena Thackeray on 13 June 1948 and had three sons, Bindumadhav, Jaidev and Uddhav. Meena died in 1995 and Bindumadhav died the following year in a car accident. Uddhav succeeded his father as the leader of Shiv Sena. Uddhav’s son, Aditya wants to continue the family dynasty by getting active in the youth wing of the party.
The success of Marmik prompted him to form the Shiv Sena on 19 June 1966. The name “Shiv Sena” (Shivaji’s Army) was after the 17th century Maratha king. Originally, Thackeray said it was not a political party but an army of Shivaji, inclined to fight for the Marathi manoos (person). It demanded that native speakers of the state’s local language Marathi be given preferential treatment in private and public sector jobs. His party extended in the next ten years. Senior leaders such as Babasaheb Purandare, chief attorney for Trade Union of Maharashtra Madhav Mehere joined the party and chartered architect Madhav Gajanan Deshpande backed various aspects of the party operations. In 1969, Thackeray and Manohar Joshi were jailed after participating in a protest demanding the merger of Karwar, Belgaum and Nipani regions in Maharashtra. In the 1970s, it did not succeed in the local elections and it was active mainly in Bombay, compared to the rest of the state. The party set up local branch offices and settled disputes, complaints against the government. It later started violent tactics with attacks against rival parties, migrants and the media; the party agitated by destroying public and private property. Thackeray publicly supported Indira Gandhi during the 1975 Emergency to avoid getting arrested; Thackeray supported the Congress party numerous times.
Politically, the Shiv Sena was anti-communist and wrested control of trade unions in Mumbai from the Communist Party of India (CPI). Local unemployed youth from the declining textile industry joined the party and it further expanded because of Marathi migrants from the Konkan region. By the 1980s, it became a threat to the ruling Congress party which initially encouraged it because of it rivaling the CPI. In 1989, Sena’s newspaper Saamna was launched by Thackeray.
On 28 July 1999 Thackeray was banned from voting and contesting in any election for six years from 11 December 1999 till 10 December 2005 on the recommendations of the Election Commission for indulging in corrupt practice by seeking votes in the name of religion. Thackeray said that the Shiv Sena had assisted the Marathi people in Mumbai, especially in the public sector. Thackeray believed that Hindus must be managed to struggle against those who oppose their identity and religion. In 2006, Thackeray’s nephew Raj Thackeray broke away from Shiv Sena to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) during Thackeray’s retirement and appointment of his son, Uddhav rather than Raj as the leader of Shiv Sena. Narayan Rane also quit around that time. On 27 March 2008, in protest to Thackeray’s editorial, leaders of Shiv Sena in Delhi resigned, citing its “outrageous conduct” towards Non-Marathis in Maharashtra and announced that they would form a separate party. Addressing a press conference, Shiv Sena’s North India chief Jai Bhagwan Goyal said the decision to leave the party was taken because of the “partial attitude” of the party high command towards Maharashtrians. Goyal further said “Shiv Sena is no different from Khalistan and Jammu and Kashmir militant groups which are trying to make a rift between people along regional lines. The main goal of these forces is to split our country. Like the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Shiv Sena too has demeaned North Indians and considered them inhumanely.”