While the Shiv Sena is determined to rename Shivaji Park as Shiv Tirth, the name by which late Bal Thackeray used to refer to the ground, it may not be in the party’s hands to change the name of the ground.
The Sena may be the ruling party in the civic body, but the fate of the resolution to change the name, which it plans to place for approval in the civic general body meeting on Tuesday, will rest with municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte.
Kunte, who reports to the urban development department, which Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan heads, is more than likely to consult the state government. Considering that the government has taken a tough stand against the party for illegally constructing a makeshift memorial at Shivaji Park, it is unlikely that it will take a decision in the Sena’s favour and allow the ground to be renamed.
“A resolution to this effect will be placed in the civic general body on Tuesday and will be passed by a majority vote,” said mayor Sunil Prabhu.
The past record of implementing the resolutions passed by the corporators is not encouraging. The municipal commissioner, whose approval is required to implement any resolution, is yet to respond to several resolutions passed by the general body in the past, some of which have been pending for years.
Opposition parties in the Brihanumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have also opposed the plan to rename Shivaji Park.
MNS corporator Sandeep Deshpande said: “Even when Balasaheb was alive, he never asked for the ground’s name to be changed. Why is this issue being taken up now? Changing its name will not change the condition of the ground or add to its greenery.”
Deshpande claimed that residents of Shivaji Park are also against its name being changed.
“We will oppose the Sena’s resolution in the general body meeting. This move will erase the character of Chhatrapati Shivaji from the ground. The Sena is only concerned about imposing its own presence,” said Dyanraj Nikam, Congress corporator and leader of opposition in the BMC.
“By renaming the park, does the Sena want to show that it does not respect Shivaji Maharaj anymore,” asked state Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant.
More Sainiks arrive, 500 guard makeshift memorial
The Shiv Sena cadre on Monday aggressively asserted its right to rename Shivaji Park to Shiv Tirth, even as it continued to guard Bal Thackeray’s makeshift memorial at the ground from being demolished.
“It’s a matter of faith. Now, with both Shivaji Maharaj and Balasaheb Thackeray on this ground, what bonds them is Shiv so Shiv Tirth is an appropriate name,” said Bala Paigude, 55, who has been associated with the party since its inception.
The number of Shiv Sena workers at Shivaji Park rose on Monday, with around 500 Shiv Sainiks guarding the spot and 50 policemen stationed there to keep the situation in check in case of trouble.
“No matter what happens, we will not let the structure be pulled down,” said Lata Rahate, said a former Sena corporator from Parel.
Party workers have put up at least 10 hoardings at Shivaji Park warning the state government of serious repercussions if even a brick is moved from the samadhi.
While women party workers formed the inner circle of the watch, men stood in the outer circle. Vaijayanti Gujar-Gholap, mayor of Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation, who was at the venue, said: “It is disheartening that we have to fight for such a great leader’s memorial. We are only demanding 60 sq feet area where our leader was cremated.”
Shiv Sainik Srikant Wagle also believes that the state government should reconsider its stance. “Had it been any other person we would not make an issue. Balasaheb is the state’s favourite leader and we won’t give up on him,” Wagle said.
Bal Thackeray was cremated on November 18 at Shivaji Park after which Sainiks constructed a makeshift samadhi. The state has refused to permit the party to build a permanent memorial at the spot, which is on the ground.