Bal Thackeray — “Bal” Keshav Thackeray (born January 23, 1924), popularly called ‘Balasaheb’, ‘Sher’, Ttiger’, or “Hridaysamrat” is the founder and president of the Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist and populist party mainly present in Maharashtra, India.
Thackeray was born to Prabodhankar Thakaeray in a Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu family and is a Hindu revivalist and Hindu nationalist. Several nationalists within the Shiv Sena (which he helped found) and other Hindu-centric political parties brand him as Hindu Hridaysamrat (”Emperor of the Hindu heart”).
Thackeray started his career as a cartoonist in the Free Press Journal of Mumbai in the 1950s, and was a contemporary of R K Laxman during his early years. His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The New York Times. In 1960, he launched a cartoon weekly Marmik with his brother. He used it to campaign against the growing influence of non-Marathi people in Mumbai. He has also fought trade union control battles with the Communists and Indian National Congress.
He formed the Shiv Sena in 1966 with the intent of fighting for the rights of the natives of the state of Maharashtra (called Maharashtrians). Politically, it has allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Industrialists were generally satisfied with the his clout since Thackeray’s draconian control over the employees would ensure a peaceful work environment.
Thackeray has claimed that the party has benefited the Marathi Manus (Marathi man) in Mumbai, especially in the public sector. The opposing left wing alleges the Sena has done little to solve the problem of unemployment facing a large proportion of Maharashtrian youth during its tenure, in contradiction to its ideological foundation of ‘sons of the soil. In addition, Thackeray played a central role in the emancipation of 500,000 slum dwellers in the Dharavi area of Mumbai, the largest slum in Asia. However, the state’s policy of giving free houses to slum dwellers has been subject to controversy by the opposing leftist parties ever since it was introduced by the Shiv Sena-BJP government a decade ago.
In addition, he led the Sena to an active role in trying to improve infrastructure in Maharashtra, particularly in the financial capital of Mumbai. Nearly 40 flyovers in Mumbai and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway were constructed under the Shiv Sena administration, which led to a significant infrastructural boom in Mumbai. While successive State governments have been guilty of neglecting Mumbai’s transport problems, the erstwhile Shiv Sena-BJP government drastically altered the course. Moreover, by initiating a range of road schemes, the Sena unequivocally opted for private, motorised transport in preference to public transport. These moves have been a crucial factor in its increasing popularity within India and the promises of further improvement have boosted the Shiv Sena’s campaigns.
In addition to improvements in transport infrastructure, Thackeray has supported initiatives against proprietary technologies such as the “Conditional Access System” for television networks (which would have led to cable companies charging more for channels). He has also questioned the government’s procedure of divesting equity in oil refining and marketing majors, effectively “selling” profitable oil companies out.