Ailing Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Wednesday virtually announced his retirement from public life and urged his followers to stand by his political heirs: son Uddhav and grandson Aditya.
“I have collapsed physically… I can’t walk... I am tired,” said an emotional Thackeray, 86, in a video-recorded address that brought tears to the eyes of many of the Sena workers who had thronged Shivaji Park for what could be the party’s last Dussehra rally at the historic venue, from where it was launched in 1966.
“I wanted to come to Shivaji Park today. I was very eager to come and meet you. All I wanted was strength to get there. I’ve been Sena chief for 45 years, and I am 86 years old. But I cannot take it forward anymore... Just the way you took care of me, take care of Uddhav and Aditya. Be faithful to the Shiv Sena,” he said.
Thackeray indirectly reiterated his desire that the Shiv Sena and the breakaway Maharashtra Navnirman Sena led by his nephew Raj Thackeray join hands. “No Marathi manoos should stand in the way of the Sena. The Sena was broken into two pieces at the same Dadar where it was born and it grew. This should not happen. If the entire Marathi clan comes together, then it has the capacity to beat the Congress and NCP government single-handedly,” Thackeray said.
A visibly frail Thackeray, who had difficulty breathing, spoke about his failing health. “My dear Sainiks, I am tired, have become weak. There was a time when I would speak in 3 sabhas in a day, talk for an hour, travel for 4 to 5 hours... my stomach gave up, everything got over. Now I spend time resting, thinking,” he said.
Thackeray is suffering from ailments of the lungs and pancreas and has been bed-ridden for a long time.