Bal Thackeray dies, Mumbai comes under security blanket

FP

Last rites today, body will be kept at Shivaji Park for final tribute * PM calls for calm in 'period of loss', cancels dinner with BJP brass

Shiv Sena supremo Bal Keshav Thackeray, whose witty cartoons, fiery speeches and political ideology urged an entire generation to fight for identity politics in Maharashtra, died on Saturday afternoon, losing the battle against multiple ailments which had weakened him over the last several months. He was 86.

Announcing his death, Dr Jalil Parkar, a chest physician who was treating Thackeray for the past four years, said: "He suffered a cardiac arrest. We tried to revive him but failed. He passed away at 3:33 pm." Thackeray's ailments, related to the lungs, heart and pancreas, had worsened over the last few months, and turned worrisome about a fortnight back.

Over the last few days, he was under constant medical supervision, even as hundreds of his supporters maintained a vigil outside his house, Matoshree. On hearing the news of his death today, many in the crowd broke down. A frenzied mob of Shiv Sainiks tried to enter Matoshree, shouting "Bal Thackeray amar rahe", but they were stopped by the police.

Both President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled Thackeray's death. Cancelling his dinner for BJP leaders scheduled for today, Singh appealed for "calm and sobriety during this period of loss and mourning".

Security was stepped up across Mumbai and Sena leaders asked party workers to remain calm, urging them not to block roads. Sena leader Anil Desai said Thackeray's body will be kept at Shivaji Park, the venue of many of his rallies, from 9 am to 5 pm on Sunday for the public to pay homage. The last rites are expected later in the day at Shivaji Park itself.

Popularly called Balasaheb, Thackeray is survived by his sons Uddhav and Jaidev. While Uddhav, the youngest, now runs the Sena, Jaidev moved out of Matoshree several years ago and has strained ties with his family. Thackeray's eldest son, Bindumadhav, died in an accident 15 years ago.

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