Thackeray memorial: Maharashtra government approves Rs 100 cr
Mumbai, Jan 22: The BJP-led Maharashtra government on Tuesday approved Rs 100 crore for the construction of a memorial for late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, a move seen as an attempt to reach out to the bickering ally ahead of the general election. The decision of the state cabinet to approve the funds came on the eve of the birth anniversary of Thackeray.
The Sena expressed happiness over it, but maintained that the government's decision had got nothing to do with alliance prospects between the two parties for the upcoming polls. On Wednesday, the city civic body will hand over the memorial land's possession to the trust set up to construct the structure, according to sources. After the cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said relations between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena "were and will remain sweet".
There are "high chances" of a tie-up between both the parties because the BJP has always been in favour of an alliance, Mungantiwar said. The Sena, an ally of the BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra, has been often critical of the two governments. Last year, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party had announced to go solo in future elections.
"Late Balasaheb Thackeray was not just leader of the Sena, but a leader of this alliance. Balasaheb will remain a person of high importance for all political parties. Therefore, in today's cabinet, Rs 100 crore has been approved for his memorial, which will inspire the youth," Mungantiwar said. The senior BJP leader said funds for the memorial would be provided by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the state government would ensure its availability.
He expressed confidence that both the parties would be able to forge an alliance ahead of the polls. The BJP has observed that there is an exceptionally good response from the Sena ministers in the cabinet meetings, Mungantiwar said, adding that "they congratulate the chief minister on various issues and firmly back the BJP on issues of farmers".
Reacting to the cabinet decision, Sena legislator Anil Parab said the government should be congratulated for it, but added that this would have no bearing on alliance prospects as the decision to construct the memorial was taken by the government nearly five years back.
"This is a very good decision taken by the government. The memorial is not only a matter of pride for the state, but the entire country. I don't have the details of the total cost of the memorial, but we hope the government makes the remaining funds available as well," the MLC said.
The land selected for the proposed memorial currently houses the bungalow of Mumbai mayor, which is a heritage site built in 1928 in an area spread over four acres, located at Shivaji Park in Dadar area of central Mumbai. The prime sea-facing property, measuring around 11,500 sq m, was handed over to a trust named 'Balasaheb Thackeray Rashtriya Smarak Nyas' last year, clearing the decks for the memorial.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had in November handed over the possession of the land to the trust, which will construct the structure, two years after the plan to build the memorial was announced. The BMC bought the sprawling bungalow in 1962 to use it as the official residence of mayor.
Shivaji Park holds an important place in the history of the Shiv Sena, founded by Thackeray in 1966. The Sena patriarch held the first rally of his party at the iconic ground. He also addressed the party's annual Dussehra rally there year after year.