Mumbai disrupted as Bal Thackeray fights for his life

MUMBAI Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:44pm IST

1 of 2. Bal Thackeray, chief of the hardline Hindu Shiv Sena party, gestures to the crowd after he cast his vote in Mumbai April 26, 2004.

Credit: Reuters/Sherwin Crasto/Files

Related Topics

Rajalakshmi (C), 28, smiles after winning the Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant in Mumbai November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Miss Wheelchair India

Seven women from across India participated in the country's second wheelchair beauty pageant, which aims to open doors for the wheelchair-bound in modelling, film and television, according to organisers  Slideshow 

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Parts of Mumbai were shut down on Thursday as supporters of firebrand Hindu nationalist leader Bal Keshav Thackeray flocked into India's commercial capital, alarmed by reports that he was close to death after a sharp decline in his health.

An official of Thackeray's Shiv Sena party told Reuters that the 86-year-old was in a critical condition and on a ventilator, with doctors attending to him around the clock.

Founder and president of the hardline Shiv Sena (Shiva's Army), Thackeray has long been one of India's most polarising politicians. Although one of Mumbai's most influential public figures, he has been widely criticised for his fiery rhetoric on social issues such as immigration and communalism.

Hundreds of Thackeray's followers kept vigil outside his house in Mumbai's central suburbs on Thursday, under a heavy police presence, including riot officers who barricaded roads and set up a security cordon in case of violence. Protests by party supporters in the past have led to violence.

Shops in areas of Mumbai where Shiv Sena has strong support were shuttered and roads in the typically bustling business district were quiet. The financial markets operated normally, but some banks allowed employees to go home early.

Rumours spread on social media sites on Wednesday that Thackeray had died, but a Shiv Sena spokesman said his condition had improved on Thursday.

"He is being given the best treatment there and his condition is stable," Sanjay Raut said. "He is responding to treatment. His condition had worsened last night, but right now he is responding to treatment."

One of the most outspoken figures of India's Hindu nationalist movement, Thackeray has in the past called for the formation of Hindu suicide squads, once ordered his followers to dig up a cricket pitch to stop the Pakistani team from playing in Mumbai and spoke of his admiration for Adolf Hitler.

Shiv Sena, which has controlled Mumbai's city council since 1996, is a key ally of the national opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. Thackeray's death could spark a power struggle in Shiv Sena, denting its support with its vote base in Maharashtra state, where he has been the face of the party.

(Reporting by Henry Foy and Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by John Chalmers and Ron Popeski)

FILED UNDER:

SAARC Summit

REUTERS SHOWCASE

E-Commerce Boom

E-Commerce Boom

Online grocers come up trumps in India's e-commerce boom   Full Article 

Reuters Poll

Reuters Poll

GDP growth to slow to 5.1 pct, but no rate cut yet  Full Article 

Oil Prices Fall

Oil Prices Fall

Oil at four-year low as OPEC production cut looks unlikely  Full Article 

Hughes Dies

Hughes Dies

Australia batsman Hughes passes away aged 25  Full Article 

Jamini Roy

Jamini Roy

Photo Gallery – Bengali household name Jamini Roy’s paintings  Full Article 

Google in Europe

Google in Europe

Insight - Behind Google's Europe woes, American accents  Full Article 

India-focused Funds

India-focused Funds

India-focused hedge funds up over 40 pct YTD - HFR  Full Article 

Trade Deal

Trade Deal

WTO postpones trade deal by a day after last-minute objection.  Full Article 

Land Disputes

Land Disputes

Disputes over land for industry on the rise in India, angering locals - charities  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage