Bal Keshav Thackeray, one of India’s most polarizing politicians and leader of an influential right-wing Hindu nationalist party that has dominated politics in the country’s richest city for two decades, has died aged 86.
Thackeray died of cardio-respiratory arrest on Saturday at his home, one of his doctors, Jalil Parker, said. He had been ill for some time and was rumored to have died earlier this week.
A religious zealot whose grip over Mumbai often resembled that of a mob boss, Thackeray was president and founder of the hardline Shiv Sena (Shiva’s Army) party, built around his fiery rhetoric on religion, immigration and communalism.
A hero of Mumbai’s Hindu working class, he was heralded as a staunch defender of regional heritage by his supporters and despised as a hot-headed bigot by others. He devoted his public life to championing the rights of Mumbai’s “sons of the soil”.