Tension in Mumbai over Bal Thackeray’s health

Party spokesperson says Shiv Sena chief’s health is improving, even as police step up security
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First Published: Thu, Nov 15 2012. 07 59 PM IST
A file photo of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Photo: AFP
A file photo of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Photo: AFP
Updated: Fri, Nov 16 2012. 12 44 AM IST
Mumbai: An uneasy calm prevailed in Mumbai as ailing Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s health remained precarious on Thursday, drawing a large number of anxious supporters to his residence Matoshri in the western suburb of Bandra.
Thackeray’s son Uddhav, executive president of the Shiv Sena, urged people to “stay calm” even as the authorities strengthened security in India’s financial capital on fears of civil unrest.
“Balasaheb is stable and there’s no need to worry,” party spokesman and parliamentarian Sanjay Raut reassured reporters in the morning. “He is responding to doctors’ efforts.” The 86-year-old Thackeray is being treated for pancreatic and lung complications.
Although many offices were closed on account of a Hindu festival, some commuters faced problems as many taxis and autorickshaws went off the roads. Bus and suburban train services were not affected.
“I decided to take a taxi to work instead of my car today, but I couldn’t find a taxi on the streets at 9.30am,” a fund manager who lives in the eastern suburb of Antop Hill and works in Ballard Estate in south Mumbai, said, requesting anonymity. “The few taxi drivers I hailed said they are going home.”
There were reports of some Sena activists asking shops to close, but the police declined to comment on this. There were also stray incidents of violence in the city and its outskirts.
Many prominent citizens visited Thackeray’s residence on Thursday, including actors Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt, Nationalist Congress Party president and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari, Bajaj Auto Ltd’s chairman Rahul Bajaj, and Videocon Industries Ltd’s chairman Venugopal Dhoot.
A restive crowd started gathering outside Matoshri on Wednesday night on rumours that Thackeray’s condition had worsened.
“Thackeray is critical, but we have not given up hope,” Uddhav Thackeray said on Thursday. “Please pray for his good health.”
The police boosted security and deployed a heavy force around Matoshri and sensitive areas in the city. Around 10,000 police personnel have been deployed across the city.
The state reserve police force and rapid action force have been asked to be on stand by, a Mumbai police officer said on condition of anonymity.
The Union government has also provided additional security forces to Maharashtra to assist the local administration in maintaining law and order.
PTI and Mint’s Nandini Ramnath contributed to this story.
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First Published: Thu, Nov 15 2012. 07 59 PM IST