The legacy of Bal Thackeray

 
Raj Thackeray at Bal Thackeray's cremation Bal Thackeray was a controversial leader

What will be the legacy of India's best known right-wing Hindu leader, Bal Thackeray, who died over the weekend?

Mr Thackeray - his father anglicised his surname after William Makepeace Thackeray, English author of Vanity Fair - ran the nativist Shiv Sena party which excelled in populism and xenophobia over four decades.

He espoused a nationalism which earned him the nickname Tiger, though as writer Suketu Mehta found on a visit to his house in Mumbai "The Tiger roars only from behind the safety of his guards". (There were 179 policemen guarding his heavily fortified mansion, Mehta wrote.)

Described by Mehta as "a cross between Pat Buchanan and Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator", Mr Thackeray was a bewildering enigma.

The charismatic cartoonist-turned politician railed against south Indians and Muslims, provoked his men to dig up cricket pitches, drank warm beer, smoked cigars, adored Adolf Hitler, hosted Michael Jackson ('Jackon is a great artist... his movements are terrific,' he once said), berated women wearing jeans and renamed Bombay.

But over the years, Mr Thackeray's sheen appeared to have lost some of its lustre and the law of diminishing returns seemed to have caught up with Shiv Sena's narrow, exclusivist politics.

The Tiger's rhetoric sounded tired, and the party's seats in state elections - despite continuing to rule the Mumbai municipality - diminished over the years. A breakaway group, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), headed by his nephew Raj Thackeray, is on the ascendant, retooling his uncle's politics and targeting north Indian migrants this time.

Loved and loathed in equal measure, Mr Thackeray will be sorely missed by legions of his dedicated cadres. But will he leave behind a lasting legacy?

Many analysts believe he will not. Populist leaders can be fickle and keep refashioning themselves to appeal to the masses. Observers also point out that the politics of fear and coercion can no longer fetch massive electoral dividends in a much scarred and fast changing and a more aware India. It is also difficult to see any Shiv Sena leader emerging who can invoke the frenzy and reverence that Mr Thackeray commanded.

If that is the case, the death of "The Tiger" brings to an end an era India will not be very proud about.

 
Soutik Biswas, Delhi correspondent Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 49.

    Basically, the only "legacy" of Thackeray is analogous to the one he left in 1972 (a party tattered then by a thumping electoral defeat) -- in other words the odour of halitosis!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 48.

    46. The Rockabilly Red
    What on earth has this fascist's death got to do with anybody in the UK?

    -----------------

    Were you after a news website that doesn't cover news outside the UK? Even my local paper covers world affairs is that useless too?

    And if so why are you reading articles by the DELHI correspondent? The headline tells you it's a non-UK story, why open it let alone comment on it?

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 46.

    So, another racist dies in a foreign country. Who, outside of his distasteful supporters, actually care? What on earth has this fascist's death got to do with anybody in the UK?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 45.

    Not even a single one of his rowdies came out to help at the time of Bombay blasts which happened just a mile away from his residence, so much for his nationalist movements, duh.

    He is basically the violent and murderous version of the people in Britain, America and elsewhere spreading the message that outsiders are responsible for all the problems. Remember Uganda a few decades ago, Zimbabwe?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    Secondly he does not deserve the national flag let alone the saffron attire, it is a shame that his body was decorated with the flag that he hardly respected, let alone working towards a national cause, or even for mankind.

    According to him, outsiders were the cause for all the problems in his state. First it was Kannadigas, then Gujarathis then North Indians and so on.

    continued..

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 43.

    Firstly, there is a big difference between a 'Hindu Nationalist' and a 'Fanatic who was Hindu', BBC should be careful about framing such headlines. It is disrespectful for Hindus at large to associate with such a hate monger that he killed and spread hatred against other Indians be it Hindu or otherwise. He even went to the extent of calling non-maratis as Pakistanis!!

    continued..

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 42.

    See http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/rough-edges/entry/shame_on_us1

    for an honest voice on the state of affairs in the democracy that is India. The police is protecting the goons from the citizens in the aftermath of the death of this maniac.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

    Democracy crumbles under economic woes as Europe in the 1930's demonstrated. We will probably see more, not less of these kind of men as the world order crumbles .... firstly in the marginal countries, but then larger countries, unless the world economy picks up.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 40.

    Thackeray’s dead, but in the party that he formed, & millions who follow him in Hindu Nationalism, carries his legacy. Following his death, when a young woman posted a comment criticizing him on Facebook, police arrested her, as well as her friend who “liked” the comment, & members of Shiv Sena vandalized the clinic owned by the girl’s uncle.
    The spirit of Bal Thackeray lives on...

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 39.

    Bal Thackeray like his father cashed in on hatred for non Marathis. The Congress Government of the State headed by a University of California, Berkeley graduate arresting two women speaking up against lock down of Mumbai should tell Indians how far they are from being a Civil Society.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 37.

    Anill, I am sure that Hitler and his ilk would promise anything to anyone to open an additonal front against the allies though I doubt if anyone could persuade those "liberators" to leave India afterwards. Tthe history of the treatment of the locals by the Japanese in their zone supports my view. Only criminals and fascists support other criminals and fascists like Hitler.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 36.

    Here is why Bal Thackeray and many Indians adore Hitler.

    1) He nearly had the Queen of England and her children as his slaves if not for the mistake of offending the Russians. And the Brit royalty was never popular with Indians for obvious reasons.
    2) Hitler was one of the first to recognize free India
    2) Subhas Chandra Bose created Azad Hind Fauj with the support of Hitler

    Good reason!

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 35.

    Say what you want but Bal Thackeray should be credited for bringing stability to Mumbai. His hatred of Muslims and South Indians you write about was because of the fight he took to the Muslim and South Indian gangsters who formed the early Mafia of Bombay. Today Bombay is a lot safer for the Hindu communities of Mumbai in a Hindu India.

  • Comment number 34.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 33.

    His image was surrounded with fear and respect but those who have lived in Mumbai for decades know that he provided stability essential for sustenance and growth of Mumbai. Mumbai is considered safer than Delhi (capital of India) not becasue it has super cops or extraordinary infrastructure but because he ensured that any element that can destabilize Mumbai never gets chance to hold roots.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 32.

    Hindu people , we are with u , don't worry there is always typical muslim hate comments in every religions, they awalys say minority but in fact they are majority using the word" muslims" in every non-muslim countries trying to invade every countries, how pathetic of them . mind ur own businesses .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    I don't blame Thackeray, when governance fails to ensure justice and provide security, people look for alternative. Mumbai, where law can be bent, land mafia is ruthless, money overwhelms morality and death is cheaper than life, he stood up and took the brunt. Obviously, this came at cost of loyalty towards him and abeyance of order without argument.one thing sure, he was a simple man in side out.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 30.

    Thackeray never pretended or claimed to be all time perfect person. Some of his methods were questionable but he helped anyone who approached him and hence had massive following. If it wasn't Thackeray, Mumbai would have turned in to another Karachi. Full of regional gangs,underworld and honey bed for rich people at the expense of poor ,Mumbai would have turned into a living hell for common man.

 

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