The demand was made by party leader and former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi, who listed Thackeray's achievements and contributions to the society and the country.

Joshi's demand came after the central government on Wednesday named former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malaviya for the Bharat Ratna.

"We welcome the Bharat Ratna to Vajpayee and Malaviya. Bal Thackeray was an outstanding public personality who brought together various social groups, especially the poor and the marginalized sections for whom he dedicatedly fought his entire life," Joshi said. Accordingly, Thackeray also deserves the highest civilian honour, Joshi said.

Thackeray, whose 88th birth anniversary falls January 23 enjoyed an excellent personal rapport with Vajpayee and other top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, till his death two years ago.

The BJP reacted cautiously to the demand. "Thackeray was indeed a towering personality, there's no doubt in anybody's minds about it. However, since this matter falls in the purview of the centre, they will take an appropriate decision at the right time," Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said.

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