Where does a local man who's dwarfed in his day-to-day life look for shelter? It was Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray who provided this shelter to the Marathi manoos for the last five decades.
Like many Maharashtrians who lost out to South Indians in the job market, Balasaheb too lost out to the legendary cartoonist RK Laxman in the fight for a job at the Free Press Journal. He soon realised that his was not an isolated case. Maharashtrians were losing out in every field, and needed protection.
By the time the Shiv Sena came to be founded in 1966, the Mumbai trade union movement was the Reds' bastion. Even the localities that were traditionally occupied by the Maharashtrians were being invaded by the others. Balasaheb's politics was driven by the motive to protect the Marathi manoos and later evolved with all the angularities that attracted so much critical attention.
However, there is a need to separate the man from his politics. He was a multi-faceted man and his communication skills were par excellence. His speeches at the Shivaji Park drew loyal followers, and kept them spellbound. His annual interview with the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Samaana was always a treat, and it was liberally sprinkled with forceful quotable quotes.
When he spoke against the Pakistani cricket team he also voiced the sentiments of people, cutting across the borders of Maharashtra. Even his open defence of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, at a time when the BJP was apologetic about it, made him lay claim to the sobriquet 'Hindu Hriday samrat', with its other connotations.
There are legendary stories about the kind of protection he offered to a wide range of personalities including prominent Bollywood stars.
His personal relationship with politicians like Sharad Pawar, Pramod Mahajan and his support for Pranab Mukherjee in his quest for presidency are some of the features that made him stand out.
It can be safely said that it is not feasible to have a 'Sena' without a 'Sena Pramukh' and in that context, Balasaheb leaves them all orphaned.