Prayers for Bal Thackeray in Pune

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As news of Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray's health being critical spread late Wednesday evening, workers and leaders of political parties and citizens in general were glued to television sets for updates.

SMSes went into overdrive as people exchanged updates on Balasaheb's health and sought clarificiations from Sena leaders about rumours of him being on life support floating around.

By Thursday morning, when it emerged that the leader's condition had become stable, residents, particularly workers and leaders of Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray-led MNS, expressed relief. Leaders and workers of other parties, too, said they were relieved.

Several top Shiv Sena leaders from both Pune city and Pimpri-Chinchwad rushed to Matoshree — Thackeray's residence at Bandra in Mumbai.

From Thursday morning into the afternoon, Shiv Sena and MNS leaders and workers offered prayers at temples, including the famous Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati temple, for the fast recovery of Thackeray who is single-handedly credited with the Sena's rise from a non-entity to a strong political force in Maharashtra.

The two Sena MPs from neighbouring Pimpri-Chinchwad, Gajanan Babar and Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil, along with other Sena leaders from the area, camped at Matoshree all through Thursday. "Several Sena leaders have arrived. We held prayers at temples in Chinchwad, Pimpri and Nigdi before coming to Mumbai," said Sarang Kamtekar, a Sena leader from Pimpri-Chinchwad.

Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe, who leads the Pune unit of the party, also reached Matoshree. The two Sena MLAs from the city, Chandrakant Mokate and Mahadeo Babar, joined her later.

Sainiks prayed at temples as TV channels flashed updates on Thackeray's health. Sena-dominated areas of Kothrud, Kondhwa and Bhavani Peth saw party workers put up banners wishing their leader an early recovery.

At Dagdusheth temple, prayers were offered by Shiv Sainiks and MNS workers, besides a large number of local residents, including homemakers.

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