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Bal Thackeray, firebrand Indian Hindu nationalist, dies at 86

Published on Nov 17, 2012 7:51 PM
In this file photo taken on April 24, 2012, Indian politician Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray gestures as he attends the 'Deenanath Mangeshkar Puraskar Awards 2012' ceremony in Mumbai. Indian firebrand politician Bal Thackeray has died November 17, 2012, according to local reports. -- PHOTO: AFP

MUMBAI (REUTERS) - Mr Bal Keshav Thackeray, one of India's most polarising politicians and leader of an influential right-wing Hindu nationalist party that has dominated politics in the country's richest city for two decades, has died aged 86.

Mr Thackeray died of cardio-respiratory arrest on Saturday at his home, one of his doctors, Dr Jalil Parker, said. He had been ill for some time and was rumoured to have died earlier this week.

A religious zealot whose grip over Mumbai often resembled that of a mob boss, Mr Thackeray was president and founder of the hardline Shiv Sena (Shiva's Army) party, built around his fiery rhetoric on religion, immigration and communalism.

A hero of Mumbai's Hindu working class, he was heralded as a staunch defender of regional heritage by his supporters and despised as a hot-headed bigot by others. He devoted his public life to championing the rights of Mumbai's "sons of the soil".

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