Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray remained in critical condition on Thursday, with thousands of supporters gathering outside his Bandra (East) residence to pray for his recovery as doctors administered to him around the clock.
On Thursday evening, senior Sena leaders said he was showing signs of improvement and had been taken off life support, though he was still breathing with the help of a machine.
Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray late on Thursday addressed anxious Sainiks waiting outside Mato-shree. “Balasaheb’s health is stable and he is responding to medication. I believe in prayers, and I would also request all of you to continue praying so that he comes out of this illness. I have not lost hope. We are Sainiks [soldiers] of a warrior leader,” he said, standing on a chair without a mike. Uddhav was accompanied by his wife Rashmi and sons Aditya and Tejas.
Earlier in the day, Uddhav had emerged from Matoshree at 2am to calm the crowds outside.
Hours later, speaking to reporters outside Matoshree on Thursday afternoon, senior Sena leader Subhash Desai said: “Balasaheb is responding to treatment”.
By evening, the mood in the Sena camp was hopeful. Even the Diwali lights at the Sena headquarters in Dadar, switc-hed off on Wednesday night, were turned back on.
There was, however, no medical bulletin issued by the doctors attending to Thackeray.
Matoshree saw a steady stream of high-profile visitors, including state governor K Sankaranaray-anan, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, Opposition leader in the legislative council Vinod Tawde and industrialists Rahul Bajaj and Venugopal Dhoot.
Hours after actor Amitabh Bachchan and son Abhishek received minor injuries while making their way through the throng to the Thackeray residence, Salman Khan, Nana Patekar and Manoj Kumar, too, visited, amid heightened police presence. Thackeray has been unwell since July, when he was last admitted to Lilavati hospital for ailments related to the lungs and pancreas.
Unprecedented cop cover in Mumbai
In one of the biggest mobilisation of forces in recent times, the Mumbai police made massive deployments across the city on Thursday as thousands of Shiv Sena supporters flocked to Matoshree in suburban Bandra where Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray continued to be unwell.
A highly placed Mumbai police official told HT that over 10,000-odd men at police stations across the city were kept on alert and asked not to leave until further orders. All leaves in the force, from constables to officers, have been cancelled and those who were on leave were called back and asked to report to duty by Thursday noon.
Police stations in the western suburbs have been asked to maintain 100% attendance and cover all areas in their jurisdiction. Most senior officials, including Mumbai police chief Satyapal Singh, were monitoring the situation by patrolling on the ground or from their offices.
Even the crime branch maintained 100% staff presence in all its 12 field units, as well as those stationed in the centralised units, and would be deployed if need arises.Three additional companies of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) have been deployed, along with 2,000 additional forces which were summoned from outside the city early on Thursday.
An additional 5,000 men were called in from the Mumbai police reserve, the Local Arms division, and pressed into duty. An additional force of the state reserve police force (SRPF) was also deployed at various points. Officials said because of the tense situation in western Maharashtra on account of the farmers’ agitation on sugarcane rates, some of the force which was diverted to Mumbai could not be brought in.
The Mumbai police have made deployments at many sensitive areas because of the unabated rumour mongering on Thursday. Officials have assured the public that there was no security or law and order problem in the city, and that they have taken all possible precautions as a large number of party workers are visiting the city.
Shops shut, roads empty in Mumbai
Trains halted at empty platforms, traffic signals turned green to deserted roads and display windows in stores wore shutters as Mumbai chose to stay indoors when news of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s precarious health spread on Thursday morning.
While many stores decided to stay shut on their own amid rumours, in many areas Sainiks went around asking establishments to close down. Sena strongholds such as Dadar, Parel and Lalbaug were on the edge.
Andheri resident Smruti Nair rushed to buy groceries for the next few days just in case everything remains shut. “At 10am, I went to a nearby store to stock up on milk and other groceries, and just a few hours later, the store was shut,” said Nair, a sales executive.
By afternoon, several taxis and autorickshaws were off the roads and petrol pumps were shutting down.
“I couldn’t find a single petrol pump open between Mumbai Central and Mahim, because of which I had to go home when I ran out of fuel in my taxi,” said Dilip Gawde, a taxi driver from Vashi.
Most film shoots were also called off at Film City and other studios as producers anticipated law and order problems, said Naresh Mohnot, from the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association.
(With inputs from HT Correspondent Mugdha Variyar)