Amid the tussle to form a government in Maharashtra, power politics was in full swing on the seventh death anniversary of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray in Mumbai yesterday.
For the first time, leaders of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) paid homage to Thackeray, both through messages and by making personal visits to Shiv Tirth, the memorial at Shivaji Park in Mumbai.
Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Sena’s former ally, also joined in to pay rich tributes to the late Thackeray.
The day started with thousands of Shiv Sena activisdts from across Maharashtra queuing up at the Shiv Tirth to offer tributes to the charismatic leader, who died in 2012.
NCP president Sharad Pawar, who was in Pune for a party meeting, paid rich tributes to Thackeray with whom he shared a warm and personal friendship.
“Balasaheb Thackeray raised his voice for the self-respect and pride of ‘Marathi Manoos’ (people). He was a courageous personality and a unique orator who enjoyed the endless affection of his followers. We bow down to him,” Pawar said.
Later, NCP state president Jayant Patil, former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal and senior leader Jitendra Awhad paid their respects at Shivaji Park.
An erstwhile close confidante of the late leader, Bhujbal was seen getting emotional and he later recalled the relationship he enjoyed with Thackeray.
Congress leaders, including Bhai Jagtap, came and paid homage and recalled Thackeray’s services to the state and the people of Maharashtra.
Subsequently, Shiv Sena president and the late leader’s son Uddhav Thackeray, his wife Rashmi, sons Aditya and Tejas, other family members and top party leaders visited Shivaji Park and offered floral tributes at the statue of Thackeray.
Sometime later, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis – who earlier tweeted “Balasaheb has taught us self-respect” with a video – accompanied by his former ministerial colleagues Vinod Tawade and Pankaja Munde paid floral tributes.
They did not go inside the Shiv Tirth memorial where several Sena leaders were present, but quickly left as some activists seen shouting ‘Mee punha yaeen’ (I will return), the poll slogan of Fadnavis.
Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said that Thackeray had shown the path of ‘Hindutva’ to the party and the country. “Shiv Sena had promised its own CM to him (Bal Thackeray), and you will see that dream being realised soon,” Raut said.
Revered in the state as ‘Balasaheb’, the late Thackeray was a cartoonist-turned-politician who founded the Shiv Sena in 1966 to raise the voice of the Marathi people. He became one of the biggest political figures in the state for the next five decades till his demise in 2012 at the age of 86.
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