Top 10 Interesting Facts About Bal Thackeray

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He remains one of the most powerful politicians in India post-independence and even though he never held any office of importance during his illustrious life, there is absolutely no doubt in anybody’s mind that Bal Thackeray was the man who ruled Mumbai with an iron fist for many decades irrespective of who the ruling party might have been in the state of Maharashtra. He died in 2012 on a balmy November day in Mumbai but he still remains a man whose legacy will always be felt on Indian public life for many years to come. Here are some of the facts about the man that you might not be aware of.

10. He Contributed as a Cartoonist for the Times of India in his Youth

Bal Thackeray did not start off his professional life as the firebrand leader he eventually turned out to be and as a matter of fact he was an extremely talented artist who also had a sharp sense of humour that made him an excellent cartoonist when he grew up. His talents were not lost on the editors of the revered national newspaper The Times of India and the cartoons he made were regularly published on the weekend copies of the paper.  That impish humour was always visible though even if he did not continue in that profession for long.

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9. His Father was a Big Influence on Him

It is often said that men of influence are influenced by their parents and it certainly holds true in case of Bal Thackeray whose father Keshav Sitaram Thackerey had a profound influence on his young mind as was growing up. His father was one of the leading activists in Maharashtra and Bal Thackeray’s early years were shaped by the any movements his father carried out in order to highlight the plight of jobless local youth in the state of Maharashtra. Thackeray junior’s political views were heavily influenced by that of his father.

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8. His Own Newspaper Did not Last Long

His unconventional take on social issues of the time in Maharashtra during the 1960s did not go down well with many people and Bal Thackeray regularly ran into trouble with the powers that be in the world of Indian media, most notably the Free Press Journal. However, he was not a person who was known to take a backward step and hence he set up his own newspaper which was known as the News Daily. However, the circulation of the paper did not reach the desired circulation figures and had to be closed after a run of a few months.

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7. He Was Given a State Funeral

When Bal Thackeray died on 17th of November, 2012, a pall of gloom descended on the rest of the country as one of the most talked about and revered political leaders breathed his last. In that light, the Government of India decided to give him the most honourable funeral in the country and hence it was not a surprise when flags flew at half mast across government offices across the country as Bal Thackeray got a state funeral for his contributions as one of the leading lights in Indian politics. Only 11 people have been given state funerals in India and Bal Thackeray remains one of the select few.

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6. He Ran His Own Ambulance Service for the Poor

Bal Thackeray was a man of the people first and foremost, which is why it was only a matter of time before he became their representative in the state assembly. He did a huge amount of work for the downtrodden classes in Mumbai and one of the things that he initiated was an ambulance service that was supposed to take care of those people who did not have the money to hire an ambulance in the notoriously expensive city. The ambulance service is extremely well run and is always on time whenever an emergency call is made.

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5. Warm Beer Was His Drink of Choice

You might have usually heard of people who simply love to down a pint of chilled beer at the end of a tiring day but Bal Thackeray was someone with a different taste as far as his favourite drink was concerned. He loved to drink beer but only if it was warm and the reason why he did so was because of the fact that it would help him with his bowel movement in addition to the fact that the beer he considered beer to be an ‘Indian’ drink as opposed to Scotch whisky that is the choice of drink of most top level politicos in the country. He is known to have only drunk beer made by Indian companies.

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4. He Has Been an Inspiration for Numerous Films

Even though he remained a political leader all his life, he was one of those larger than life personalities that have ever been a part of the Indian political landscape and hence it was not really a surprise that his life and times has been the subject of plenty of films in both Marathi and Hindi. Most famously, the movie Sarkar directed by Ram Gopal Verma and starring Amitabh Bachhan in the title role was based on his life, however the director first showed the movie to Bal Thackeray in a special screening in order to know whether the movie did justice to his character or not.

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3. He Was Famous for his Sharp Political Retorts

Bal Thackeray was a political animal extraordinaire and over the years he became a sort of legend in the political circles for his witty, intelligent comments that often cut to the core of the matter quickly. His party the Shiv Sena was involved in a long power struggle with the Communist party in Maharashtra regarding the control of the labour unions in the state and once when an opposing Communist leader stated that the Shiv Sena as a party had no ideology unlike the communism, Bal Thackeray did not let it go easily. He stated that the Communists only have ideology and that is perhaps the reason why they were unable to rule many countries for long. The incident was mentioned in Suketu Mehta’s magnum opus on Mumbai, Maximum City.

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2. He Loved Havana Cigars

Although Bal Thackeray was one of the few voices who spoke in favour of the masses who often got a raw deal and fought for their rights in his own way, he also developed a taste for the finer things in life that all leaders grow accustomed to at a certain age. One of the few pleasures in his life was Havana cigars that he smoked everyday and has often been pictured with those in some of the photographs that were published in leading magazines many years back.

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1. He Was a Fan of Hitler Since the German was a Painter

The former Shiv Sena chief was an artist in his own right and according to him that was one of the reasons he was an admirer of Adolf Hitler, the German dictator who was a painter in his youth. However, such an admiration did not go down well with most people since Hitler was also responsible for mass murders of millions of Jews during the Second World War. However, in an interview with one of the leading newspapers of the country the Indian Express, he explained his stance, “Hitler did very cruel and ugly things. But he was an artist, I love him [for that]. He had the power to carry the whole nation, the mob with him. You have to think what magic he had. He was a miracle…The killing of Jews was wrong. But the good part about Hitler was that he was an artist. He was a daredevil. He had good qualities and bad. I may also have good qualities and bad ones.” He couldn’t have been clearer about his stand.

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Conclusion

Those were then some of the lesser known facts from the life and times of one of the India’s most influential politicians. Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below.

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