'Won't lose hope, will pray for Sena chief'

HT Correspondent

Mumbai, Nov. 16 -- With concern over Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's health mounting, Shiv Sainiks continued flocking to his residence Matoshree and prayed for their leader's speedy recovery.

Rajendra Raut, a Sena leader from Ghatkopar, said that they had not lost hope. "We do not believe any rumours. We are very hopeful that our Balasaheb will recover fully," he said, adding that he and his colleagues had organised a prayer session for the ailing leader.

On Wednesday night, after news of Thackeray's ill-health spread across the city, around 5,000 Shiv Sena members gathered outside Kala Nagar in Bandra (East).

Some unruly Sainiks got angry with news channels cameramen present there. About 10:30pm, some of them started pushing the photojournalists and even broke two OB vans.

"We don't care of the loss to the channels. We have lost almost everything," said a Sena cadre who did not wish to be identified.

The restless crowd calmed down only after Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray appealed to the cadres to maintain peace. He appealed to party activists and the people to remain calm and ensure that the "image of Matoshree was not spoiled".

Shortly after this, many party activists slowly started dispersing.

On Thursday morning, while the crowd returned, the Mumbai police and other security agencies were better prepared and made tight security arrangements around the Thackeray family home.

The traffic police was also seen in high numbers at the busy Kala Nagar junction, ensuring that there was smooth traffic movement.

Not only Sainiks, even members of Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) came to show their loyalty to the Sena chief.

"Our leader worships Balasaheb and so do we. While we may be in a different party, it's still Shiv Sena's blood which flows in our veins," said an MNS activist from Parel, Sena's stronghold.

Activists from Solapur, Pune, Aurangabad and Kolhapur among others, also rushed to the city. Bhagvan Valhekar, city head of the Sena in Pimpari-Chinchwad, was one of them. "When we heard last night that Balasaheb's heath was critical, we couldn't stop ourselves and hence, came to Mumbai."

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.