For thousands of Shiv Sena supporters and party workers, Diwali was over on Wednesday itself. Many camped outside Matoshree — the Thackeray residence at Kalanagar — praying for Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s speedy recovery.
The area around Matoshree had a thick police cover through Thursday as loyalists and party workers gathered in large numbers to get a veritable update on his health and glimpse of the leader.
Double barricades were put up on both sides of the house as the crowd surged. The Sena loyalists, ranging from an 11-year-old son of a party worker to a 70-year-old woman walking with a bend in her back, sat on dividers and pavements, going without food and water for hours, restless for some news.
Police cover was doubled on Thursday morning and additional 500 metres were cordoned off, with the help of Rapid Action Force (RAF) and platoons of State Reserve Police Force (SRPF). Speakers were put up for public announcements and halogen lights were set up for vigil through the night. Every half-an-hour, a political leader or a prominent personality would emerge from Matoshree and people waiting rushed towards the person for some news, making their way through television cameras and booms.
“The party hasn’t communicated anything to us about his health since Dussehra. So many party workers have been waiting here since yesterday. Many are angry that actors and celebrities are being allowed to go inside and get an update on Balasaheb’s health, but we, who have been associated with Shiv Sena for years, don’t get to know what is happening,” said Yashwant Sawant, a party worker living in a chawl near Bandra government colony. He had been waiting outside Matoshree since 10 pm on Wednesday.
“I am praying that may he also live my share of life. He has been my god ever since I was born,” said Aparna Pawar, a Sena worker from Andheri. Before heading to Matoshree on Thursday morning, Pawar along with the Sena branch head in the area, ensured that shops in their area were shut and Diwali lanterns pulled down.
Pradip Parab, an MTNL employee heading the Shiv Sena Kamgar Sanghatana there, was waiting outside Matoshree for the most part of Wednesday night. He went home on Thursday morning hoping to catch a wink. “I couldn’t stay home knowing Balasaheb is unwell and came back within half-an-hour,” Parab said.
Sena leader Suryakant Mahadik stepped out of the Thackeray residence with party workers shouting slogans and flashing a victory sign. Party workers picked up the chant. Mahadik drove away and the situation returned to what it was.
I am extremely disturbed and concerned about the critical health of Shri Balasaaheb Thackeray, who is like a family member to me...In view of this, I am postponing the function of my music company... My prayers are with Balasaaheb and the entire Thackeray family...
Lata Mangeshkar, Singer
Balasaheb Thackeray: a fighter all his life, fights his life!! Prayers needed now!
When I fought for my life after ‘Coolie’ accident, he came to visit me in hospital, with a cartoon he had drawn — Yamraj defeated!
When I was flown in to Mumbai from Bangalore in semi-conscious state after ‘Coolie’ accident, it was his ambulance that took me to BC.
Amitabh Bachchan, Actor
My prayers & wishes for Bala sahibji...may he recover soon & healthy from this battle
Shah Rukh Khan, Actor
Wishing Balasaheb Thackeray a speedy recovery. My best to his family
Milind Deora, MoS, Communications and IT