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In Bal Thackeray's funeral, Shiv Sena displayed its strength
The demise of Maharashtra strongman Bal Thackeray has literally left a great vacuum in the state politics. The multi-fold personality and his commitment towards people and the society was demonstrated after his death with millions turning out to pay homage to the deceased Sena chief.

THE LARGE number of people turning out at the funeral of Bal Thackeray was unprecedented and a surprise of everyone, including his followers. The police had estimated about 2 to 3 lakh people to attend funeral and Shiva Sena leaders had expected over 5 lakh people, but the actual attendance was beyond everyone’s expectations.

All these years Bal Thackeray was depicted as a regional Maratha leader, chauvinist, communalist and anti-Muslim. But several known critics of Bal Thackeray who were present on several TV shows after his death started recollecting his great virtues. One may not accept his views on various issues, but almost unanimity was seen that he was a mass leader.

One of his rarest or rare qualities was that he spoke what he meant and practiced. He used to speak in the language of common man.

He did not contest any election and didn't hold any public office. Nor his party Shiva Sena was not in power for long. During over five decades of his public life his party held the government in Maharastra for a mere period of four and half years.

Now it was established his mass popularity was unmatched to any other post-independence era leader. This demonstrated the deep heartfelt admiration the people of Maharashtra cultivated about him. Many political commentators started saying that his death may weaken Shiva Sena prominence in the state politics.

Some are predicting that even Shiv Sena’s long time ally BJP may not show such interest now and even side with break-away faction led by Raj Thackeray, founder of Maharashtra Nav Nirmana Sena (MNS). Now TV-room discussions are focusing on how the rift between Thackeray cousins -  Uddhav and Raj may weaken their position.

For the time being the ruling Congress may be jubilant, expecting weakening of their principal political enemy in the state. However, the party’s real danger may stay here only. This happened in Tamil Nadu also. With the death of M G Ramachadnran, Congress also expected that it can become major political power in the state with the weakening of DMKs. However, two factions of DMKs evolved as two major political forces of the state, thus leaving no space for Congress.

If Thackeray cousins continue to test their leadership abilities with the masses without preferring rejoining together to keep alive Bal Thackeray’s legacy, both of them are likely to become major power centers in the state in the coming years. In such a situation, both Congress and its ally NCP need to worry a lot as little political space will be left for them.

The funeral procession also demonstrated unmatched organisational strengths of the Shiva Sena at gross root level. This is likely to benefit Uddhav Thackeray to consolidate himself as a major power center in the state politics. On the other hand, Raj Thackeray had already proved his immense abilities to raise emotions of the people and make them to rally around him.

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