New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today cancelled a dinner meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today following the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. (Read: Bal Thackeray dies at 86) The party described Mr Thackeray as a lion and one of the most charismatic leaders whose demise has left a "gaping void" in the country's politics.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena have had a long-standing relationship, especially in Maharashtra where they have run governments together and continue to be strong allies.
Soon after news of Mr Thackeray's death came in, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj called up the Prime Minister and said the BJP was saddened by Mr Thackeray's death and requested him
to cancel the dinner. The PM accepted her request. Ms Swaraj later tweeted, "We have cancelled PM's dinner."
Senior BJP leader LK Advani condoled the Sena chief's death, saying, "It is rare in the 65 years of Independent India that I have seen a political leader who has left such a deep and abiding imprint on the country's events as Balasaheb Thackeray.
Uncompromising in his patriotism, he possessed remarkable qualities of leadership and abundance of attributes of head and heart.
The death of Thackeray has left a "gaping void" in the country's politics which cannot be filled, he added. (Watch)
Ms Swaraj, who is the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, said on Twitter, "I am terribly pained to hear that the Lion is dead."
She later told reporters that very few people have the courage to speak their mind and Balasaheb was one of them. "He was never deterred by any opposition. His persona was as high and firm as the Himalayas. His death is an irreparable loss to the country. His departure has left a void which will never be filled."
In his condolence message, Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said, "He was one of the most charismatic leaders of his generation and uncompromising in his principles."
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter, "Full of life, Balasaheb Thackeray was an epitome of courage and valour. I am grieved to hear about his demise. May his soul rest in peace."
Speaking to reporters later, Mr Modi said, "His going away is like the passing away of an era. A good cartoonist, a free thinking journalist and one who awakened Maharashtra with his views, he carved a niche for himself in Indian politics.... He kept away from power but built an organisation and a movement on his own strength." (Watch)
BJP President Nitin Gadkari said the death of Thackeray is a personal loss to him.
"What was in his heart was on his lips. He never hesitated to speak his mind. Both the BJP and the Shiv Sena have lost their anchor," he added. (Watch)