Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Vice President M. Hamid Ansari on Saturday joined the rest of the country, including politicians across party lines, in mourning the death of Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray.
Thackeray died at his Mumbai residence on Saturday after battling ailments for weeks, ending an era in Maharashtra and national politics in course of which many opposed to his functioning struggling to come to terms with his brand of firebrand nationalism. He was 86.
Mourning the death of the Shiv Sena supremo, the Prime Minister said, for Thackeray the interests of Maharashtra were particularly important and he always strived to inculcate a sense of pride in the people of the state.
"He founded the Shiv Sena and built the party into a formidable force in the State politics with his strong leadership and extraordinary organizational skills. He was a consummate communicator whose stature in the politics of Maharashtra was unique," said a statement issued by the Prime Minister´s Office (PMO).
"The passing away of Bala Saheb will be deeply felt by his family and followers," the PMO said.
The Prime Minister appealed for calm and sobriety during this period of loss and mourning.
In his message Vice-president Ansari said Thackeray had made significant contributions to public life in Maharashtra.
"I am grieved to learn of the sad demise of Shri Balasaheb Thackeray. Shri Thackeray has made significant contributions to public life in Maharashtra. Throughout his life he remained committed to well-being of the people of Maharashtra," said Ansari.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari said the political life of Thackeray could not be forgotten.
"His political life cannot be forgotten...His life is exemplary for the rest of us...His demise is a big loss to both the Shiv Sena and the BJP," Gadkari said.
Senior BJP leader LK Advani said: "His demise has left a huge vacuum in the country's politics which cannot be filled easily."
Remembering Thackeray, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said: "I have known him for 40 years. Even when I was the Chief Minister of the state (Maharashtra) and came out with good policies, he always supported me. Today, Balasaheb has left us, I offer my condolences on behalf of my family."
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said: "We had differences but when it came to national issues we were together."
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said: "This is a big jolt to Maharashtra and the nation and with his demise an era ended."
"He lived like a tiger and consolidated his position in politics. He knew how to swim against the tide. Leaders like him are born rarely. His void cannot be filled. The whole nation is grieving. BJP pays its respect to the late leader," said Hussain.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said Thackeray played a big role in the politics of Maharashtra.
"He had a big role in Maharashtra politics. We feel sad and we convey our heartfelt sorrow to the family and pray they can overcome the grief," Alvi said.
Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor remembered the leader and said: "He was a great leader. He was a warm and helpful person."
Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar recalled how Bal Thackeray had deep knowledge about everything in cinema.
As Thackeray´s end came at around 3-30 pm and the news was announced in the evening by his doctors, lakhs of his followers, many of whom called him the King of Hindu Hearts, broke down and grieved for the man who founded Shiv Sena in 1966 to enforce the rights of Marathi people in Mumbai and who left an indelible impact on national political architecture with plain speaking and espousal of national pride.
The Sena patriarch died at his residence Matoshree in Bandra. He died after a respiratory arrest, the doctor said, urging reporters to not ask uncomfortable questions to the grieving family and respect privacy.
Thackeray is survived by his sons Jaidev and Uddhav, who is the executive president of the Shiv Sena.
His political legacy is also carried forward by his nephew Raj Thackeray a few years back broke ranks with Shiv Sena and formed a separate party- Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).