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Can Bal Thackeray be compared to Ambedkar and Phule?

As the crowds swelled at Bal Thackeray's procession on Sunday, there was no doubt about one thing - the fact that his popularity, even after 50 years of Shiv Sena's existence, was unchallenged. But how would one describe the maverick politician - as a mass leader who advocated Marathi pride or one who had communalised and marginalised a section of Mumbai forever?

Kumar Ketkar, Editor of Dainik Divya Marathi, told CNN-IBN that he can't be straight-jacketed into one role and that was his recipe for success.

From the father to the son - who carries on the mantle of Shiv Sena? Seen here - Uddhav Thackeray looking over the pyre of Bal Thackeray's funeral pyre. AFP

He said," I think we should not compare today's Bal Thackeray to the Bal Thackeray that people were worshipping in the procession. He was always changing and evolving, sometimes in regression. But change was always there."

"In 1966, the Hindutva agenda did not exist. It came much later. He criticised the RSS and even though he formed an alliance with them he kept his anonymity," he added.

It was not only his dilly-dallying with fundamentalist forces that kept him in the news, it was also because he was the celebrated torch-bearer of Marathi pride. Does it place him in the league of other great leaders like Ambedkar and Jyoti Phule?

Sociologist Ashish Nandy does not agree that his legacy will be carried forward in the history of Maharashtra. He said, "He is not part of the Marathi pantheon."

"He was a popular leader and populist leaders never leave behind a legacy because they are constantly trying to recreate themselves what they can push with the public. There is no ideological consistency with him," he added.

However, Kumar Ketkar said that though he was moving between the twin polls of Hindutva and Marathi manoos, the stability of the political force was unique.

He said, "He was very communicative, he was very candid and he was directly with the people. He was not going into complex sociological identities. Most of the politicians were obfuscating."

Moreover, he pointed out that Thackeray had never gone to Delhi and bargained for anything. "He made politics the politics of the impossible," he added.

But was the future of the Shiv Sena and its might bleak after the fall of its patriarch?

Kumar Ketkar said that the conditions that propelled Shiv Sena in 1966 - lack of jobs, stagnation in economy is non-existent. He said, "The reference of middle class identity and son of the soils theory is not there anymore."

Ashish Nandy feels that the road is downhill for the Sena from now. He said,"The party was entirely dependant on the charisma of Balasaheb Thackeray and it is bound to take its toll. Uddhav cannot invoke even one-tenth of the frenzy and reverence that Bal Thackeray generates."

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